I either found a "fix" or I got lucky (more likely).
I got through it the first time no problem and just raced Lamar. Then I decided to start a private session and my character data was corrupted, so I started over from scratch.
After numerous times getting to the "Launching Session" screen with nothing happening and then having to start it over, I decided to wait it out along with the other players. A few people left right away, then a few more. Finally it was just me and one other player sitting at the screen and I decided to see if waiting for him to leave would help. It took him a good 10 minutes to finally give up, but the instant he left the session, the race loaded up for me.
Like I said, I'm not sure if I just got lucky this time, but I'm thinking if you just wait for every other player to leave, you SHOULD get passed it.