When Alex Trebek raced in the 2009 Long Beach Grand Prix Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, he admitted he wasn’t much of a speed demon. But, being the brainy guy he was, the late Jeopardy! host had figured out a way to win.
“I’m just going to wait for everyone to crash, and then go by them,” Trebek joked a day before the Grand Prix. “It’s very dangerous to pass people, you don’t want to do that.”
Trebek took part in the 33rd annual race, which pits celebrities against some of the best drivers in the world to raise money for charity.
The late Jeopardy! icon had some stiff competition in the celebrity category. Competitors included Keanu Reeves, Adrien Brody, Tim Daly, Raven Symone, Eric Close, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Mencia, Fonzworth Bentley, and Ken Baker.
The celebrities got a 30-second head start over competitive drivers Jamie Little, Al Unser Sr., Johnny Benson, Coy Gibbs. Trebek was excited to be there, but he didn’t care much about the racing. “I just want to be comfortable and listen to the radio,” he joked.
Even after getting a turn behind the wheel for some practice laps, Trebek just didn’t see the point.
“These cars are so complicated — this is why someone invented automatic transmission,” he said. “And all the smells … I think I might be going to buy one of those deodorizers after this.”
Trebek, who died of pancreatic cancer in November 2020, performed as well as he predicted.
Alex Trebek Found a Way to Not Finish Last
At the end of the race, Alex Trebek’s plan worked flawlessly. He finished 15th out of 18 racers, but he beat every racer who wrecked.
Al Unser Sr. won the race overall and Keanu Reeves, star of Speed, was the top finishing celebrity and fourth overall, according to reports after the race. But Trebek, despite seemingly not liking any aspects of racing, did get what he wanted out of the race.
“I thought it would be an exciting experience, and so far it’s turned out to be exactly that,” he told reporters.
All the celebrity racers seemed to have had fun driving the modified Toyota Scions. In post-race interviews, all were giddy and excited about their performance. Even Raven Simone, who slammed into the wall of the ninth turn. But Alex Trebek always felt more at home behind a podium than at a race track. The game show host had rather spout racing facts than drive a race car himself.