Home » INDYCAR

IndyCar And Sonoma Split; Laguna On Board

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 18 2018

Sonoma is history as IndyCar is set to move to Laguna Seca. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The Verizon IndyCar Series will change California zip codes for its season-ending race beginning in 2019.

Sanctioning body INDYCAR and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca have confirmed that the historic Northern California road-course with Indy car roots will return to the schedule in 2019.

The three-year agreement, approved Tuesday by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors overseeing operation of the facility, calls for Laguna Seca to be host site of the final race of the 2019 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Next year’s race weekend will be Sept. 20-22. The remainder of the series’ 2019 schedule will be announced at a later date.

Laguna Seca held Indy car races annually from 1983-2004.The 2.238-mile permanent road-course near Monterey, Calif., was site of the season-finale from 1989-96. Laguna Seca (zip code 93908) is located approximately 149 miles south of Sonoma Raceway (zip code 95476). It is a 2-hour, 40-minute drive down the California coast between the facilities via I-880 South and US-101 South to the popular Monterey-Carmel area.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season-finale,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, owner of INDYCAR and 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.”

Sonoma Raceway has played host to 14 Indy car races under sanction of the U.S. Auto Club, the Indy Racing League and INDYCAR dating to native Californian Dan Gurney’s victory in April 1970. Owned by O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorports, Inc., the layout measures 2.385-miles with 12-turns. The San Francisco Metro Area ranks 11th in population and is the No. 8 television market.

Four-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and 2014 series champion Will Power of Team Penske share the track record for open-wheel wins with three each. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, has won the last two season-enders in California’s wine country.

Track President Steve Page issued the following statement on the impending move: “We wish INDYCAR and our friends at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca the very best with their new event.  Please join us in Sonoma this September for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar® Series season finale.”

On Friday, Page indicated the facility would not seek a new contract with INDYCAR if Laguna Seca was added to the schedule.

“Sonoma Raceway has invested heavily to build INDYCAR’s brand and following in Northern California over the last 14 years, and we would be happy to continue that effort, but only under a sustainable business model,” Page said in a statement released Friday morning.

“If the series determines their long-term interests are better served by moving the Sonoma race to another venue, that is a business decision they are obviously entitled to make, and we will turn our attention to other opportunities.”

Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, which has played host to the series since it opened in 1997, is the only other SMI venue on the current schedule.

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was built in 1957 _ then known as Laguna Seca Raceway _ by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP). SCRAMP is a non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation that is the management firm for the County of Monterey-owned Laguna Seca Recreation Area.   

The 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca have seen some of the sport’s greatest drives. Bobby Rahal won four consecutive years at Laguna Seca and Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta and Patrick Carpentier each won twice. One of the most famous racing moments in Indy car history occurred at Laguna Seca in 1996, when Alex Zanardi completed a daring last-lap pass of Herta in the famous downhill Corkscrew turn to get the race win.

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” said Rahal, now co-owner of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team that competes in the series. “I personally won four Indy car races there and won my first Can-Am race there. Our Indy car 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, and it’s a great circuit that always drew great crowds, so I’m thrilled to have Indy car racing coming back to a circuit I love so much. We will put on a good show, for sure.”

For 12 consecutive years, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship has not been decided until the last 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, and through the support of the County of Monterey will provide a significant economic benefit to our area businesses,” said Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “We are looking forward to creating more memories in race fans’ minds like Bobby Rahal’s four consecutive Indy car wins from 1984-1987, 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.’^”

NBC Sports Group has secured exclusive domestic television and digital media rights for INDYCAR races beginning in 2019. “We commend INDYCAR for returning to Laguna Seca, an historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season-finale,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “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.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 18 2018
No Comment

Comments are closed.