LONG BEACH - Kate del Castillo fans had one objective Saturday: Find the Mexican actress at the Toyota Pro/Celebrity and make her grin and bear it.
And the star of "La Reina del Sur" happily did, posing for pictures with members of her fan club and a massive Teddy bear wearing a T-shirt with a picture of her they brought.
Decked in caps, bracelets and sparkly nails that spelled out her name, members of the actress's fan club
traveled from as far as Chicago to see her.
"I was really emotional right now when I saw her," said Los Angeles resident Maria Vallejo, who teared up after meeting the actress. "I've been a fan since I was 4 years old. ... I love how she acts, and ever since the (TV series) `Muchachitas' ... it was like, I want to be like her. She's like my role model."
For fans like Vallejo, the 38th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is all about the celebrities.
The Grand Prix, which draws more than 170,000 people over three days, features six races, including the 36th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity race.
The charity race - which has featured celebrities such as George Lucas, Cameron Diaz, Paul Newman and Keanu Reeves - benefits Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach and Children's Hospital of Orange County.
This year's race featured del Castillo, Adrien Brody, Eddie Cibrian, Kim Coates, William Fichtner, Hill Harper, Cain Velasquez and Brody Jenner.
With race cars roaring in the background, fans pressed themselves against the fence that surrounded the celebrity compound, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars.
"That was awesome," she said.
Academy Award winner Brody waved at Hollywood resident Nina Vercher, who held up a sign in the crowds that read, "Happy birthday, Adrien!" (The actor, who won an Oscar for his role in "The Pianist," turned 39 Saturday.)
"It was great," she said. "He's also a great actor. His look just catches me."
Her friend, Toluca Lake resident Marisa Traub, said she came for support. Traub had been coming to the Grand Prix four years in a row, the first time to see Reeves when he participated in the charity race.
"That was my favorite - that's why I started this whole thing," she said, laughing. "It's just a lot of fun. It's a chance to get to see celebrities. It's something different."
Del Castillo's fans were front and center, holding up a banner of the actress in racing gear and the words "There's only one queen. And that's me."
"You have no idea how important that is for me and how much it means, really, because they are adorable," del Castillo said about the fan club and her fans. "I love them. It means so much."
Although del Castillo did not win the charity race - that honor went to comedian Adam Carolla - it did not matter to Vallejo.
"I think she did great in the race - doesn't matter who wins," she said. "She'll always be the best one."