World Renowned Vegas Gaming Expert Picks Skateboarder Danny Way and Actor Keanu Reeves as Celebrity Favorites in 2009 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race
by Anthony Curtis
Pro Drivers Al Unser, Jr. and Johnny Benson Tapped by Handicapper Anthony Curtis to Take the Checkered Flag in Prestigious Grand-Prix-Style Race on April 18
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Danny Way, Keanu Reeves and Fonzworth Bentley are among Las Vegas gaming expert Anthony Curtis' "celebrity" picks to give the "pros" some heat in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on Saturday, April 18, part of the 35th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Curtis, president of LasVegasAdvisor.com and one of the world's most recognized and quoted gambling authorities, correctly picked NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little to win last year's event. Little is back this year to defend her title and compete in the Pro Category.
Curtis has also sized-up how the rest of the stars of film, television and sports will fare in this historic, 10-lap race for charity, which is conducted in race-ready Scion tCs on a 1.97-mile street circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach in Southern California. He offers his expert predictions solely for entertainment purposes exclusively on www.lasvegasadvisor.com. (There will be no actual wagering on the outcome of the race.)
"I've actually driven the course of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, and it's a hair-raising experience," said Curtis. "I know how hard it is for the celebrities and pros alike to resist the fast-paced action of this race - and best of all, it's for charity."
Here's the morning-line on how Curtis sees the field of 18, fresh off their four days of drivers' training at an undisclosed location in the California desert.
-- Danny Way (7-1) X Games champs usually fare pretty well in this race, and Way should be no exception. He's a fearless driver with a good feel for the car -and the walls at Long Beach won't intimidate him at all after having jumped the Great Wall of China. -- Keanu Reeves (14-1) Naturally fast and a definite threat to win. Though you might think driving a bus in "Speed" helps, his training at Freddy Spencer motorcycle school and participation in other racing events probably serve him better. Track moles say he masters the technical stuff almost as good as the Pros. Watch out! -- Fonzworth Bentley (18-1) Shows the C.O.L.O.U.R.S. of victory with every lap. Extremely passionate, fearless and competitive. Has a shot to run with the top dogs. -- Eric Close (20-1) A consistent racer who demonstrates the same focus on the track that he displays in his FBI agent role on "Without a Trace." If he peaks at the right time, he could be right up there. -- Adrien Brody (21-1) An extremely fast driver. If he can perform for 10 laps in Long Beach the way spies say he did in the desert, he'll have a racing trophy to put next to his Oscar. -- Tim Daly (23-1) Like his character on "Private Practice," Daly is cool and calculates his moves. He's cruising at this point but he could be a sleeper. -- Ken Baker (23-1) This E! Entertainment news exec could end up making some news himself on race day. Track spies say he's lookin' good. -- Raven-Symone (25-1) Whether she's acting, singing, dancing or driving a race car, Raven-Symone seems to get better and better every time. Nothing flusters her. Comes in calm and ready to go at it. Has flashes of brilliance ready to shine. -- Carlos Mencia (26-1) No joke, this famed funnyman may be the underdog now but he's got some motorcycle racing under his belt and could be breaking to the front of the field on race day. Don't count him out. -- Mary Lynn Rajskub (45-1) Spies report that the "24" star is definitely the most improved driver after training. She was very tentative when she started out but listens very well to direction and has perfect lines on the track now. Keep an eye on her! -- Alex Trebek (65-1) Despite being a long shot, it's unlikely that Trebek will find himself in "Jeopardy!" in Long Beach. He's quite methodical and cerebral, which will serve him well in this field.
Rounding out the field in this year's race are charity auction winners Douglas Fregin and Annamarie Dean. Each entrant donated upwards of $50,000 to "Racing for Kids" to race alongside the celebs in this year's race.
Charity Auction Winners:
-- Douglas Fregin (22-1) Looks at racing from a very analytical standpoint. The Blackberry inventor has some experience as a member of a Porsche club; his home track is Mosport, a historic Canadian track. Could do very well, or could over think his strategy. -- Annamarie Dean (30-1) This is Dean's second shot at the checkered flag, having been taken out by George Lucas in her first run in 2007. But she won a chance to try again by being the high bidder in the Boys and Girls Club charity auction, so let's see if she can make that competitive spirit work its magic.
The celebrity field is set to test their skills amongst a strong contingent of professionals. The celebs may have a 30 second head start but with the "King of the Beach," Al Unser Jr. leading the way the professionals are likely to catch up fast.
-- Al Unser, Jr. (3-2) As a six time winner at Long Beach there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Al knows the track best. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, two-time CART Series Champion and overall winner of the 1985 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is the one to beat! -- Coy Gibbs (6-1) Another outstanding driver with a venerable racing family pedigree. Should make the Pro category one of the toughest calls in years. -- Johnny Benson (7-2) 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. Can you say "competitive"? -- Jamie Little (9-1) This ESPN/ABC pit reporter for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, who was the celebrity and overall winner in the 2008 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, is going to have to take it up a notch this year. Spies say she's up to the challenge. -- Tom Rudnai (16-1) Rudnai won the 2001 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, so he's got victory in his blood. As president of Longo Toyota in El Monte - which is an affiliate of Penske Motor Group - he's got lots to prove. He's looking good.
"It's a pleasure to have Anthony Curtis handicap the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race again this year for entertainment purposes," said Les Unger, Toyota's national motorsports manager. "He understands how challenging this can be for the drivers and his predictions add a bit of fun and rivalry to the competition."
Toyota will donate $5,000 to "Racing for Kids" in the name of each celebrity racer, and another $5,000 to the winning racer's charity of choice. Racing for Kids is a non-profit program benefiting children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif.
Finally, a $15,000 donation is made in conjunction with the 12th annual "PEOPLE Pole Award." Sponsored by PEOPLE magazine, the award honors the pole-position winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race qualifying session on Friday, April 17. On behalf of the race and its participants, Toyota has donated close to $1.7 million to various children's organizations since 1991.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Celebrity odds are provided for entertainment purposes only. Wagering on the outcome of the race is neither encouraged nor implied.
ABOUT ANTHONY CURTIS: Anthony Curtis is one of the world's most recognized and quoted gambling authorities. The president of LasVegasAdvisor.com, he has appeared as a casino expert on "Dateline NBC," "48 Hours," A&E, E! Entertainment, Discovery, The Travel Channel, The Food Channel, The Learning Channel, and has been the subject of articles in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Arthur Frommers' Budget Travel and Discover magazine. Curtis is author of Bargain City--Booking, Betting and Beating the New Las Vegas and The Art of Gambling Through The Ages. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in tournament play, Curtis' top tournament wins include $76,000 World Matchplay Blackjack Championship, $125,000 Atlantic City Craps Championship, $50,000 Las Vegas Keno Championship, and $60,000 Las Vegas Blackjack Championship.