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Chris Pook tells his story

June 22, 2020

Pook book cover

Demonstrably, the second most important race in the NTT IndyCar Series is the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the most successful street race for major open wheel motorsports in the contiguous United States.

Born of the dream of one Christopher Robin Pook, a British expatriate who had settled in what was then known as “Iowa by the Sea”, the Long Beach, Calif. race, first a Formula 5000 event in September of 1975 and then a Formula One race exactly six months later has run without interruption through to 2019. The scheduled 2020 race was cancelled due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Pook, together with author Gordon Kirby tell the story of why, how and when the race began, the variety of issues that plagued its earliest runnings and how this mega event went from an F1 race in 1983 to become Championship Auto Racing Teams’ (CART) most successful contest outside the Indianapolis 500. As part of the current NTT IndyCar Series, Long Beach retains that status.

Pook’s story – and this is Pook’s story – tells of his upbringing and his enthrallment with the sport. It tells how and why he came to the United States, settled in Long Beach and became a successful travel agent in the early to mid-1970s. Pook’s alignment with the iconic Dan Gurney and with a group of Long Beach influencers helped get the race off the ground. Pook would, until his death, rely on Dan Gurney’s vast racing knowledge and intuition in much of what he’s done both in and outside of Long Beach.

And there’s much to tell outside of Long Beach, as Pook was the instigator behind the revival of racing outside St. Louis, MO and in Memphis, TN. He’s attempted more than one other street race and has assisted many other promoters in their quest to have their own Long Beach extravaganza. Pook tells of his forays outside the local racing scene and how he ended up shepherding CART in its waning years.

Pook also attempted to renew F1 racing in Long Beach but was unable to get the city to work with him in that recent attempt. You could say he’s retired now, but if a program became available that Christopher Robin Pook thought he could bring to fruition, there’s still a glint in his eye and, of course, a swagger in his step.

Fans of the Long Beach race can learn what it took to bring racing to streets adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and how it became such a success – one that remains to this day, pandemics notwithstanding.

There are lapses in these 319 pages, of course. Every book has them. Kirby’s reluctance to speak with some of the major players responsible for the success of the Long Beach race is mystifying, but the title of the book explains: “Chris Pook & The History of the Long Beach GP.” So it’s about Pook, and only touches on a few of the people who helped make 45 years of racing at The Beach so successful.

The photos that accompany nearly every page of this hardcover book are, for the most part exemplary, especially those by Jutta Fausel, who was able to document nearly every  running at Long Beach and whose exquisite work is acknowledged among the pinnacles of racing photography. There are also photos from the late Dennis Torres, from Paul Webb, Steve Swope and from LAT, now part of the Motorsport.com family.

“Chris Pook & The History of the Long Beach GP” is available from Racemaker Press. Entry fee is $80, about the same cost as a front-straight seat on a sunny Sunday for next year’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race.

By Anne Proffit

From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Almost, i am persuaded to find that $80.
    Reminders of my “golden” age??? Gawd i’m old!
    dRU

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