LONG BEACH (CBSLA) – The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returned this weekend for the first time since it was forced to cancel events during last year’s statewide pandemic lockdown.

Fans haven’t been able to catch a glimpse of the race cars zipping around the streets of Long Beach since 2019 and those who turned up for this weekend’s schedule of events were ready.

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“Oh, yeah, love it,” said racing fan Tony Gillespie. “NASCAR, racing anything to smell that fume.”

Tony Huerta, another fan, echoed the sentiment, adding that he’s been coming to the Grand Prix event for decades.

“It’s great to be out here. I’ve been coming here since the first time it was ever one, back in ’72. I think it was Formula One. So, for us to miss a race, it was tough,” Huerta said.

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The race does look in different in some ways. COVID-19 safety protocols mean masks were required even in outdoors settings and vaccination statuses or a negative coronavirus test were checked at the entrance to the event. Organizers said the safety measures didn’t appear to affect attendance.

“We’ve had big crowds all weekend,” Chris Esslinger, Grand Prix Director of Communications, said.

Fans of Grand Prix racing weren’t the only people excited about the race’s return. The season finale of the 2021 Indy Car Series brings a crush of customers and revenue to local businesses as well.

“I’m a small business owner too. So, you know, COVID really hurt and they depend on the grand Prix every year. So, I’m glad they’re having it,” Linda Nolasco, a racing fan, said.

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In 2019, the weekend long event saw a total of 187,000 spectators and organizers said they expect to have that number and maybe more when they tally up the rest at the end of the day.