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Chin up, New Orleans: Jay Leno's here to help

The comic revs it up for an auction to assist hurricane victims, and adds his spin on racing.

November 23, 2005|Jeanne Wright | Special to The Times

Comedian Jay Leno, a big-time car buff and celebrity speedster, helped auction off a one-of-a-kind Porsche Carrera GT last week, raising more than $430,000 to aid victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Before last week's benefit at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Leno chatted about his recent spins around the track and also gave us his take on L.A. drivers.

What prompted you to auction off the Porsche Carrera GT?

Porsche had asked if I wanted to go to set some speed records at the Talladega Superspeedway in Georgia.... Race car driver David Donohue was there. He set the big records and I set the junior-comedian- celebrity- with- moremoney-than-brains record.

How fast did you go?

My lap was 183 miles per hour. David Donohue's was 193.

Is it scary?

It's a lot of fun, actually. I don't consider myself a race car driver, but I'm not a panicky person so when I went into a spin at 188 miles per hour I didn't lose it .... We were close to 190 miles per hour, and I took my foot off the gas just a hair and some debris was on the track. We spun around five times. That was exciting.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday December 07, 2005 Home Edition Highway 1 Part G Page 2 Features Desk 0 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Leno Q&A -- A article about comedian Jay Leno in the Nov. 23 Highway 1 section said the Talladega Superspeedway is located in Georgia. The car track is in Alabama.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday December 07, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Leno Q&A -- An article about talk show host Jay Leno in the Nov. 23 Highway 1 section said the Talladega Superspeedway was in Georgia. The race track is in Alabama.

Have you had any accidents driving this fast?

I haven't. But on a track where everyone is going the same direction, you're dealing with professionals. You don't have the guy on the cell phone drinking a cup of coffee cutting in front of you, which is way more scary.

I'm amazed at how discourteous drivers can be. I was at a light the other day; it was dark. I noticed this guy didn't have his lights on. I beep-beep with the horn. I couldn't have been more benign with my beep-beep. He looks at me. I tell him his lights are off and his first instinct is to say [a profanity]. I was just trying to help the guy.

Have you been to New Orleans since the hurricanes hit?

I went down a few weeks ago and was at a casino. I thought: Should I do hurricane jokes? These people might be a little sensitive. But they couldn't have been a better audience.

What were some of the jokes the audience liked?

I said President Bush took a lot of heat for not immediately getting help to New Orleans, but to Bush's credit, as soon as he found out they had oil ... he had troops down there almost immediately. I said Bjork -- remember the swan outfit she wore a few years ago -- donated the outfit to [benefit people affected by the hurricane]. How would you like to be the lucky guy that gets that. You're standing in your front yard in water up to your [behind], dressed like a duck and waiting for FEMA to show up.

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