A clean white T-shirt and a black marker.
Those are the only tools Doug Pitt needs — along with a smile on his face — to undertake his annual quest at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach: Getting as many signatures as he can.
Pitt, a Downey resident, has headed to downtown Long Beach during the set up for the street-racing weekend for 30 years, searching for autographs from those involved with the Grand Prix.
But getting signatures is a common activity at the Grand Prix, as it is at any sporting event. The Grand Prix, in fact, hosted an autograph session with this weekend’s competitors on Friday, Sept. 25, the first day of Long Beach’s biggest annual event.
What makes Pitt’s quest truly quixotic, however, is his hierarchy of those he seeks out:
The professional drivers, the Grand Prix’s celebrities and raison d’être, bring up the rear on his list, Pitt said, because they tend to take up too much real estate, signing larger than anyone else. Pitt also refers to the drivers as “overpaid jockeys” — a testament to his admiration for the guys behind the scenes.
But lest you think Pitt spends his annual Grand Prix pilgrimage tilting at windmills, he seems well-liked around the track.
Take Tim Broyles.
Pitt ran into Broyles, the general manager of Ed Carpenter Racing, on Thursday while riding his bike around the track. Broyles has signed at least 15 of Pitt’s 30 shirts over the years — and he described the Downey man as a part of the event.
“I look forward to seeing him every year,” Broyles said. “It feels pretty cool to get some appreciation and recognition from a fan.”
Pitt said he doesn’t have a favorite autograph — he values all of them.
But there is one autograph that eluded him:
The legendary actor — who starred in “Cool Hand Luke,” among other classic films — was a racing enthusiast. Pitt said he met Newman a couple of times at the Long Beach track and they chatted.
But Newman, according to Pitt, had a strict policy of only signing during sanctioned times and locations to avoid being mobbed.
Newman died in 2008. The 13th anniversary of his death is Sunday, the final day of the Grand Prix.
But Pitt said he doesn’t dwell on not getting the actor’s autograph. He’s content to have the memory of meeting him.
And he still has all those shirts with all the other signatures he did nab.
He’s been offered money for the shirts, Pitt said, but refuses to sell them.
“I’ll be cremated with all of the shirts,” Pitt said. “They’re going with me.”