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  • Writer's pictureThe Big Magazine Staff

Acura Grand Prix Long Beach: Jim Michaelian Still Racing At 81 Years Old

By The Big Magazine Staff

Jim Michaelian is still in the driver's seat at age 81, 4 decades after bringing open-wheel racing to Long Beach in what is now the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in the 1970s.

Michaelian, told KTLA in an interview “I got some hot rods and was driving around Southern California [and] got my fair share of tickets.”
“I’ve had a couple of accidents, one where I literally went upside down in Daytona. But I’ve managed to survive so far. Hopefully I’ll get a few more years of racing in before they say you don’t qualify for a license anymore,” he says.

Photo of Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President, Jim Michaelian on April 04, 2023 in Long Beach, California Photo Getty Images

In 1975, the city gave Michaelian and co-founder Chris Pook permission to run their first Formula 5000 race, which turned out to be the first street course race in the U.S. The duo disrupted the motorsports world by developing the idea for the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the first post-World War II city circuit Grand Prix in the United States.

In 1975, the Formula 5000 event took place on the streets of Long Beach and was won by Brian Redman. The event's success attracted the Formula One racing series. Another major Grand Prix milestone was when racing legend Mario Andretti took home the checkered flag in 1977. 

With the powerful support of racing legend Dan Gurney and other racing greats proved the doubters wrong and Michaelian and Pooks went on to build the most successful street race in American motor racing history.

Eight years later, in 1983, they changed the Long Beach Grand Prix from Formula One to CART Champ Cars, the fastest growing automobile series in the world at that time. 

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview | INDYCAR By NTT INDYCAR SERIES Youtube

This weekend’s Grand Prix of Long Beach marks 40 years since Indy cars made their debut on the Long Beach street circuit. The anniversary will be celebrated with 18 vintage Indy cars to hit the race track this weekend. 

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