Laguna Seca hosted open wheel racing from 1983 through 2004. It will be returning to the schedule in 2019 as the season finale. The northern California venue will play host to the final race of the season for the next three years, the series announced today. The full 2019 schedule will be revealed at a later date, but next year’s race at Laguna Seca will be held on September 22. After 14 consecutive seasons of IndyCar racing, and the last four as the season finale, Sonoma Raceway will not be part of the schedule next year. The full press release from today is below.
[Verizon IndyCar Series Press Release]
IndyCar and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca announced that the historic Northern California road course with deep Indy car roots will return to the schedule in 2019.
The three-year agreement, approved today by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors overseeing operation of the facility, calls for Laguna Seca to be the 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 schedule will be announced later.
Laguna Seca held Indy car races annually from 1983-2004. The 2.238-mile permanent road course near Monterey, California, was the site of the season finale from 1989-96.
Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, praised the agreement that returns Indy car racing to the track.
“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for IndyCar’s season finale,” Miles said. “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.”
The 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca have seen their share of the sport’s greats drive to victory. 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,” Rahal, now co-owner of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team that competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series, said of the agreement. “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.”
The competition expects to be just as fierce and exciting when the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to the popular Monterey-Carmel area on the California coast to complete the 2019 season. For 12 years running, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship hasn’t 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. Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, agreed that Laguna Seca is an ideal venue to close out the schedule.
“We commend IndyCar for returning to Laguna Seca, a historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season finale,” Miller said. “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 Monterrey.”
Per Motorsport.com, the return to Laguna Seca is contingent on several track upgrades. According to the draft agreement, among the modifications at least 60 days prior to the 2019 event:
- There will be an extended taper to the leading end of the sausage curbs
- There will be a cement slab behind the existing curbs at the Corkscrew
- There will be a bolt-down curb behind the existing curb at Turn 7 throughout the entire lengthTop of Form
- Bottom of Form
- All gravel beds must be smooth with no more than 3-inch variation in height
- All tire walls will be covered by a conveyor belt
- Two additional rows of tires will be added to Turns 2, 5, 6, 8 and 10.
- A debris fence will be added along the front straight “to cover the bridge pillars if required once the new bridge is completed”
- More debris fences will be added to Turns 2, 4-5, 5, 6 and 8.
- A minimum of two cables will be added to all existing debris fences, bringing cables to a total of five.
- When the track gets resurfaced in time for the 2020 race, there will be pavement added to the outside of Turn 2
- A debris fence between pitlane and the track will also be considered.