Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves wasn't quite sure what to think when he was approached about being grand marshal of the Great Grove Bed Race -- the revival of the traditional bed races through Miami's Coconut Grove. It's not as if bed races are a Brazilian custom.
"I didn’t know. Bed race? OK, give me a minute to find out what it is," Castroneves said. "When I spoke to my trainer, he said, it’s pretty cool, it’s pretty famous."
According to organizers, it’s been six years since decorated beds and their riders and pushers have raced through the streets of Coconut Grove. With the help of local businesses, Homestead-Miami Speedway (where Castroneves will compete for the IndyCar Series championship on Oct. 10), and others, the race is returning Labor Day Weekend. There are two days of events planned: Saturday, Sept. 5 will feature a Pajama Pub Crawl with a Pajama Party and the race scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 6.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Alonzo Mourning Charities and the University of Miami Sleep Program (it's a bed race!).
Castroneves was joined at the Mayfair Hotel & Spa in the Grove by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff (in photo from Homestead-Miami Speedway Sarnoff is on the left; Diaz to the right) to announce the driver and Dancing with the Stars Season 5 winner's participation as grand marshal and celebrity judge. Castroneves will judge race entries for theme, decor and overall creativity.
With those duties, Castroneves might be too busy to race. Entries must be twin-sized beds with one participant in the bed and four others pushing it. "I love racing," Castroneves said adding that he's never participated in a bed race. "Certainly it's something different. If you want to win, you don't want to be sleepy."
Sarnoff says he might participate as he did nearly a dozen years ago. He was already musing about Castroneves' chances.
"I’m trying to figure out if Helio is going to run the Posturepedic, or which one he's going to use," Sarnoff said. "I heard he’s going to use the Sleep Number, because it’s lighter and it much more imitates the car that he drives. I don’t know if that’s going to be allowed."
Diaz also had a little fun at Castroneves' expense, reminding that the return of the event is good fun for the community and beneficial for the charities.
"We have such great programs and such great people in Miami like Helio and Alonzo, who are people who are known worldwide, people who serve as role models and inspiration," Diaz said. "They live here in Miami, they call Miami home, they love Miami, and ... they pay taxes in Miami," he said before letting out a chuckle.
Castroneves was acquitted this spring of federal tax evasion charges.
But Diaz doesn't want to stop at bed races.
"Commissioner Sarnoff and I are working on another event," Diaz said, "a Coconut Grove dance-off and we're challenging Helio."
He was just kidding.