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They keep marketing it as a race, but the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend is far more party than race these days.

Oh, there will be plenty of racing — Champ Cars, the American Le Mans series, and you really need to check out the drifters.

But if you’ve been to Long Beach for the race before, you know that it’s really a people-watching party where there just happens to be cars going around a track. A hundred thousand people will be in town for race Sunday (and a couple hundred thousand when you count Friday and Saturday) but maybe a third of them care about the racing. And that may be generous.

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That’s why there’s a huge “lifestyle” expo, concerts -- Taking Back Sunday, ironically playing on Saturday -- and there’s a beer truck every time you turn around. And this isn’t NASCAR and it’s stereotypical fans, this is “open wheel” racing like you see in Monaco and the grand tracks of Europe, which brings with it a little classier atmosphere.

Well, at least that’s the idea, but as the Champ Car circuit itself has become a shell of its former self, some of hose high-end fans have stopped showing up. The biggest name drivers -- Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy -- are hardly household names. In fact the biggest name is Rahal, but it’s not racing legend Bobby but his 18-year-old son Graham.

All that hasn’t changed the party, there’s just a little less champagne flowing. It’s a chance to have some drinks in the hot sun, breathe in exhaust and stare at the opposite sex (or same sex, Long Beach is pretty open minded). Oh, and did I mention there is plenty of beer.