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Al Unser Jr. named grand marshal of Long Beach Grand Prix

March 27, 2009 |  3:34 pm

Al Unser Jr. is a record six-time winner of the race now known as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and he also still owns the record for laps led, 545, in the event held each spring on the city's seaside streets.

So the race's operator, the Grand Prix Assn. of Long Beach, saw it only fitting that Unser should be grand marshal of this year's race on April 19 -- which also happens to be Unser's 47th birthday.

Unser also will be inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on April 16 -- along with 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal -- and Unser is scheduled to drive in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on the Long Beach track April 18.

The son of famed driver Al Unser Sr., "Little Al" competed 15 times in the Long Beach race under the former Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series, winning in four consecutive years (1988-1991) and again in 1994 and 1995.

He also won the CART championship twice (1990 and 1994) and was a two-time winner of the Indy 500 (1992 and 1994).

This year's race will be the first at Long Beach since CART's successor, the Champ Car World Series, was absorbed into the IndyCar Series a year ago, reunifying the two major U.S. open-wheel racing series. Thus, the field this year will include IndyCar drivers such as Danica Patrick, reigning series champion Scott Dixon and 2007 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti.

-- Jim Peltz