INDYCAR Returns to Laguna Seca

Image courtesy T.M. Hill
INDYCAR Returns to Laguna Seca
Image courtesy T.M. Hill

The IndyCar Series will hold its next three season finales on the bucolic, 2.238-mile WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca traditional permanent road course near Monterey, Calif., the series and track has announced.

The historic Laguna Seca track was tabbed, last week, to hold an IndyCar race for the first time since 2004, but the date could not be formally announced until Tuesday, July 17, following a morning vote by the board of supervisors for Monterey County, where the track is located.

A three-year agreement calls for Laguna Seca to be the host site of the final race of the 2019 season with the date set for the weekend of September 20-22. The balance of the 2019 season schedule will be announced at a later date, the series said.

WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway was site of the CART series finale from 1989 through 1996, the latter race known for driver Alex Zanardi’s daring, off-circuit, last-lap “The Pass” of Bryan Herta in the track’s notorious downhill Corkscrew turn for the win.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., owners of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Monterey is a place people want to be and we will bring all of our guests. I think it’s a great choice for us.”

Laguna Seca has been the site of IndyCar races from 1983 through 2004. Those previous 22 races have seen their share of the sport’s great racers in Victory Lane. Current team co-owner Bobby Rahal won four consecutive contests on the Laguna Seca racetrack during his driving career; Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Herta and Patrick Carpentier each own two victories on this tough track.

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” Rahal said of the agreement. “I personally won four IndyCar races there and won my first Can-Am race there. Our IndyCar team won with Bryan Herta and Max Papis and our sports car team won IMSA races there, so I would almost bet you that Laguna Seca is the site of more victories for me as a driver and team owner combined of any track I’ve ever raced on.

“There is nothing better than the Monterey Bay area,” Rahal continued, “and it’s a great circuit that always drew great crowds, so I’m thrilled to have IndyCar racing coming back to a circuit I love so much. We will put on a good show for sure.”

There are rationales against the adoption of Laguna Seca for IndyCar racing. It’s very short, not terribly wide and access is limited to the circuit by the small number of main roads available. While Monterey has any number of available hotels – thanks to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s enviable status as a venue – they are all at least 20 minutes away from the circuit by car.

Still, the IndyCar Series expects the Laguna Seca circuit to present an enviable finish to the season. For the past 12 years, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship hasn’t been decided until the final race on the schedule.

“The return of INDYCAR to its spiritual road racing home of Laguna Seca is a tremendous honor and testament to the appeal of Monterey,” said Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, “and through the support of the County of Monterey will provide a significant economic benefit to our area businesses. We are looking forward to creating more memories in race fans’ minds, like Bobby Rahal’s four consecutive Indy car wins from 1984-87, Mario Andretti’s farewell race in 1994 and Alex Zanardi’s last-lap overtaking of Bryan Herta in the Corkscrew in 1996 that simply became known as ‘The Pass.’”

INDYCAR’s new broadcast partner, NBC Sports Group feels it’s up to the challenge of showing the beauty of the racecourse and the competitive nature it evokes from all racers who challenge Laguna Seca. “We commend INDYCAR for returning to Laguna Seca,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN. “It’s an historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season finale. The 2019 season will be our first as the exclusive media rights partner of INDYCAR, and we could not be more pleased to broadcast the championship from beautiful Monterey.”

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was built in 1957 by SCRAMP, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula. SCRAMP is a non-profit 501(c) (4) corporation that manages the County of Monterey-owned Laguna Seca Recreation Area that includes the 2.238-mile traditional road course.

In recent years there have been battles between SCRAMP and other potential circuit operators, but SCRAMP has prevailed in operating the track, which has also been host to the annual Monterey Historic Road Races, FIM’s MotoGP, this year’s World SuperBike challenge, IMSA, Grand-Am, Pirelli World Challenge and a multitude of SCCA national and regional contests.

About Anne Proffit 203 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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