Alfonso Ribeiro is known for hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos and winning Dancing with the Stars, but he should also be known as one heck of an auto racer. Ribeiro won the final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race this weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – the fourth time that he has been on top at America’s premier charity motorsports event.
IndyCar Examiner spoke to Alfonso just prior to Saturday’s race to discuss how he would evaluate his racing skills and whether or not the end of the Pro/Celebrity Race also means the conclusion of his time behind the wheel.
“I’m really excited because this is the last one and to have that opportunity to even run for the chance to win is incredible,” he told us. “As we all know this is about Racing for Kids and the fact we have one last year of donating a ton of money to them and all those kids is great. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
Even though he won the 2015 event in dominating fashion, he wasn’t allowing himself to think too far ahead about this year’s race, given that it was populated entirely by folks who had also been TPCR winners over the last 40 years. “The competition this year is a whole other level,” Alfonso reflected.
“You’ve got [two-time IndyCar champion] Al Unser, Jr, you’ve got [NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion] Mike Skinner, you’ve got [Formula 1 veteran] Max Papis, [IndyCar team owner and champion] Jimmy Vasser.
“You’ve got guys that have won in every level of driving that they’ve been in, and to come here and play with us – one it’s an honor, but two they’re real drivers. This is going to be a tough race.”
As it turned out his assessment of the competition was spot-on. Alfonso went on to pull away from the field and capture his fourth Pro/Celebrity Race victory, but the two people joining him on the podium were professional racers – Papis and Rod Millen. Yet Alfonso didn’t just beat them, but he beat them handily. It won’t be the titles that he thinks about most when he looks back on his involvement with this event, however.
“I would have to say simply the comraderie,” he said when we asked what he’ll take away. “Just making so many great friends, there’s so many people that I’m friends with because of racing and it’s meant so much to me, my family. It’s one of my true loves. I feel lucky to have this be part of my life.”
Having said that Alfonso believes Saturday’s Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was his last professional racing event.
“I do most of my competing in golf now. This, for me, is really the last of me playing in this world,” he concluded. “There’s no reason to go do that. If somebody asks me to get in a car and drive a little bit I will, but this will probably end up being my last race.”
He certainly has more than enough in the entertainment world on his plate: he can now be seen hosting ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos every Sunday at 7 p.m. and Unwrapped 2.0 on Cooking Channel.
But if this is his final auto race, he retires leaving behind a career that would be impressive even by professional racing standards. Both on and off the track, Alfonso Ribeiro has been a credit to the motorsports community.