Ready, Set, Peel Out!
Soapdom Exclusive Photos
By Lori K. Wilson
“Who put ‘Chasing Dingo’ on the back of my car?” asked an excited, grinning Ingo Rademacher on race day, Saturday, April 9. The day before, he'd won the first place starting position for the Pro/Celebrity Race, and someone at Toyota definitely had a sense of humor!
The German born, Aussie bred actor, who plays Jax on General Hospital, represented daytime television in the 2005 Pro/Celebrity Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. While Rademacher and the other celebrities undoubtedly took the 10 lap, 1.97 mile event through the streets of Long Beach seriously, the day was ultimately about good-humored fun and charitable intentions.
There to appreciate the ‘Chasing Dingo’ punch was Rademacher’s supporting family. His parents Arndt and Vita, who are now Venice Beach locals, were happy to be present at the event. And you couldn’t miss Rademacher’s adorable young niece and nephew with whom he gladly posed for pictures. Rademacher was clearly enthralled to have his sister’s youngsters there with him – they were in his arms all day, except for during the actual race.
The other celebrities also seemed to be enjoying their families, as well as each other. After training together, this group developed a special bond that was evident in the way they talked and laughed amongst themselves on Saturday. The group included Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy), Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle), Mark Steines (co-anchor for Entertainment Tonight), Paige Hemmis (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), Justin Berfield (Malcolm in the Middle), singer Meat Loaf, NBA great Karl Malone, US Olympic swimmers Amanda Beard and Aaron Peirsol, and US Olympic beach volleyball player Misty May. The group had an especially good time cracking fun with Meat Loaf – the common phrase of the day was, “Beat the Meat!”
As for the professional drivers, who drove distinguished red cars and started 30 seconds behind the celebrity racers, there was Ryan Arciero (3 time Baja 1000 Champion Racer), Matt Scranton (2004 NHRA Summit Pro RWD Champion, Sport Compact Pro Drag Racer), and Rhys Millen (Champion Rally and Formula Drift Team Racer). Also in the “pro” category was last year’s celebrity winner, Christopher McDonald, who played Ted Shackelton in the 2004 FOX comedy Cracking Up and will appear with Brooke Shields in the upcoming FOX comedy New Car Smell.
According to Les Unger, Toyota’s national motorsports manager, “The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race draws some of the most competitive celebrity and professional drivers because it offers the high-speed challenge of real racing, combined with a worthwhile charitable endeavor.”
Through this popular springtime event, Toyota raises more than $100,000 for “Racing for Kids,” a non-profit program benefiting children’s hospitals in Long Beach, CA and Orange County. A donation of $5000 is made in the name of each celebrity racer, and another $5000 goes to the winning racer’s charity of choice. In the past 14 years, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race has generated more than $1.2 million for children’s hospitals in Southern California.
Watching the competitors interact before the race, it was obvious they were all there for a good time and a good cause. Some members of the group, however, were also there to win. After talking to Rademacher on Tuesday, March 29 at the practice/press day, it was clear that this celebrity had intentions to come in first at the main event. And up until the kick off of the actual race at 12:15 on Saturday, everything and everyone seemed to be pointing in his favor.
Rademacher, who has had his General Hospital role since 1996, is known to be quite the athlete. With a list of credentials including ski champion, professional beach volleyball player, professional equestrian, triathlete, and enthusiast for motorbike and sailboat racing, he clearly has a certain zeal for a little active competition. Beyond his natural athleticism, he was well prepared for his turn at racing on Saturday.
First of all, he won the qualifying round on Friday, April 8 -- a significant achievement considering it granted him the coveted inside track position for Saturday’s race. More importantly, this victory honored him with the eighth annual “People Pole Award.” Sponsored by People magazine, a $15,000 donation is made to the charity of the qualifying winner’s choice. What cause did Rademacher choose? He has decided to distribute the donation among three eco-friendly organizations: Heal the Bay, Green Peace, and Water Keeper Alliance.
Vita Rademacher, though proud of her son’s charity decision, comically commented, “Yes, they are all for the environment. (The racers) pollute the environment today, and now they can make up for it! It is quite the paradox, isn’t it?”
She found her son’s success at the qualifying round less paradoxical and told a story to point to his natural need for speed: “When Ingo was eight months, old he got his first little matchbox car. My daughter is two years older than him, so he had never seen a car, or anyone play with a car. And he got this little car, and he said, ‘Vroom, vroom, vroom!’ He loved to play with cars when he was little!”
It seems Rademacher still loves to play with cars. On practice day, he was happy to share his knowledge of the sport, ranging from how to handle the Toyota Celica GT-S Liftbacks (the cars used in the pro/celebrity race) to the strategy of hugging the walls of the course on turns. He went into depth on the importance of taking Turn One slowly, so as not to spin out of control – interestingly enough, it was Turn One on Saturday that first disrupted his expectations for the race.
Almost immediately after the green flag went up to officially begin the race, Rademacher, in car #8, found himself slammed into the wall on that imperative first turn. Dempsey, who had the second starting position, appeared to have cut Rademacher off!
“I wasn’t trying to get him out of the race. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t rear end him on that first turn, so I had to move over a little bit,” explained Dempsey.
As Dempsey and the others continued on the track, Rademacher thought it was all over for him. But he went ahead and tried to get his car moving again; and sure enough, he got back on track. For the remainder of the race, he kept screaming fans on their toes as he gradually sped back up to the front of the pack. Pro driver Rhys Millen took a dominant lead and maintained it until the end to win the overall race; however, the spot that everyone really cared about, the celebrity championship, was still up for grabs.
In the final laps, Rademacher battled swimmer Aaron Peirsol for this front spot, but in a suspenseful turn of events, Rademacher and Peirsol wrecked! What do you think happened this time? Why, Rademacher got right back up on his feet again; however, by the time he got his beaten up car into gear, Muniz was able to speed past him and seize the celebrities’ checkered flag. While Rademacher finished second among the celebrities, his crashes and recoveries dominated the thrill of this race.
As Muniz took to the winner’s podium, Rademacher checked out the enormous dent in the right side of his car. So what changed in his game to make Saturday’s results differ than those of the qualifying round the day before?
“It’s a lot different when you’re actually racing, especially when you’re among everybody. You go a lot harder for sure. I was passing people because I knew that they were slower; and I was like, ‘I’m coming through.’ And then, just at the last minute I did the same thing I did on Turn One – I overshot at the end of the street and couldn’t quite get control of the car back. I almost had it, and I tapped the brake a little too hard at the end. I stalled in third gear, and by the time I got going Frankie passed me.”
The race certainly did not end the way Rademacher had expected it to. To his validation, many of the other drivers agreed that Rademacher should have won.
Peirsol, the man Rademacher collided with right near the end, said, “Ingo was definitely the fastest racer on this track today.”
The professionals would have the same opinion according to Rademacher’s proud mother: “The instructors said it was amazing how he raced – like a pro! If he would have been first from the beginning it would have been boring!”
The experience certainly was not boring for Rademacher. At the end of the day, with the sun still beating down, he continued to visit with his family and meet his fans. When he stepped up on a platform to be interviewed by ESPN’s Steve Hartman, he touted, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had in a sporting event!”
See Rademacher accept the Pole Award in the video below
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