By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
For the first time in 15 years, the Verizon IndyCar Series is set to race at Laguna Seca.
INDYCAR and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca announced Tuesday that the Northern California circuit will return to the open wheel tour’s schedule in 2019. The organizations reached a three-year agreement, approved Tuesday by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, that will see the historic track serve as the host of IndyCar’s championship race over the next trio of seasons.
“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, said in a release. “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 holds a special place in IndyCar’s history books, having served as the site of Indy car races annually from 1983-2004, including season finale events from 1989-96. Drivers including Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy, Alex Zanardi and Bryan Herta have all won at the Californian circuit in the past, with Rahal claiming four-consecutive years from 1984-87. The facility also hosted the season finale for the Mazda Road to Indy in 2015 and ’16.
“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,” track CEO Timothy McGrane said in a release. “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.’”
The addition of Laguna Seca’s to the IndyCar schedule likely comes at the expense of Sonoma Raceway. The SMI-owned facility will hold an IndyCar event for the 14th-consecutive year this September, but has expressed little interest in sharing a spot on the tour’s schedule with another facility in Northern California. The two facilities are separated by approximately 150 miles.
Sonoma Raceway president and general manager Steve Page released a statement on the then-rumored Laguna Seca news on July 13, stating: “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.
“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.”
Laguna Seca’s first race weekend will be Sept. 20-22, 2019.