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Why wait in long lines at Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to get signatures? Here are the reasons fans gave

Photos and story by Howard Freshman,

Contributing photographer

They came as autograph seekers, memorabilia collectors and devoted auto racing fans.

They wanted to express their appreciation, get race opinions from the pros — and, of course, nab a signature or two.

The dedicated fans at this weekend’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach had various reasons for waiting in long lines, often in the hot sun, to meet their favorite professional race car drivers.

They also had ample opportunities.

Many people simply wanted to share a few moments with their idols. Others wanted autographs for family members who couldn’t make it. And some had more personal objectives.

“I’m here for my kid,” said Long Beach resident Karla Rodriguez, who was the first person in the queue to meet Romain Grosjean and his Andretti Autosport teammates at Friday’s IndyCar autograph session.

“I have a 9-year-old at home who had tickets for today, but the sun was too strong for him to be out here,” Rodriguez said in the sweltering heat. “He races go karts, is really into Formula 1 and has followed IndyCars for three years.”

But besides getting a signed picture for her son, Rodriguez, who was attending her third Grand Prix of Long Beach, had an ulterior motive for wanting to meet Grosjean.

“I’m going to tell him my kid is a big fanatic and as a mom, I really appreciate the public role model he is for kids,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of kids who look up to him and wish to be like him.”



Besides the hugely popular, choreographed autograph sessions on Friday and Saturday, the Motorsports Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony and Thunder Thursday also provided passionate fans personal encounters with elite drivers from the IndyCar Series, IMSA and Formula DRIFT.

Lyndsey Bloxom of Alexandria, Virginia, withstood Friday’s oppressive temperatures and a three-hour wait to get IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson’s autograph.

“I’ve been following him since 2005 when he raced NASCAR,” Bloxom said, “and I have a photo I want him to sign.”

But Bloxom, originally from Huntington Beach, also wanted to share a message from her heart.

“I’ve never met Jimmie before,” she said, “and I plan on telling him that it’s been a joy following his career and it’s real exciting to meet him.”

With colored Sharpies and promotional photos in hand, the pros were engaging and ready to autograph almost anything handed to them, pose for selfies, accept well wishes, recall a past encounter or ask a question.

Will Buchen, a 9-year-old who came to the event from Irvine with his father, is rooting for Grosjean to win Sunday’s Grand Prix.

The youngster hoped to get some pictures signed and also wanted to get a racing expert’s opinion.

“I asked Romain who he thinks is going to win the Formula 1 championship this year,” Buchen said, “and he said Charles Leclerc.”

Buchen doesn’t necessarily agree with Grosjean’s prediction, the youngster said, but he still plans to hang his newly autographed pictures in his room.

Long Beach residents and frequent Grand Prix attendees Katherine Kim and Wayne Ball brought the former’s son, Crosby, 9, to the paddock where they all displayed T-shirts autographed by several IndyCar drivers.

But while the adults sought out some heritage names — Graham Rahal and Grosjean — Crosby, a student at Bryant Elementary who had already collected seven signatures, said he was looking for someone in particular to sign his T-shirt: Rookie of the Year candidate Tatiana Calderon.

“I was looking for her,” he said, “because a female driver came to my school.”

It’s the intimate, fan-friendly nature of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and its associated events that gives people of all ages the rare opportunity to hang out with the pros.

They are interactions that are infrequent among most professional sports involving internationally known superstars.

And no matter what happens when the drivers compete on the track, people like young Crosby Kim will always have these signature moments to look back on.

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Source: Orange County Register

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