IndyCar at Laguna Seca: A Look Back

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On Tuesday, IndyCar finalized a three-year deal with WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, beginning with a race set for September 22, 2019.

The agreement will bring IndyCar back to the 2.238-mile road course for the first time since 2004. In celebration of the track’s return to the schedule, here’s a look back at the track’s most iconic moments.

Memorable IndyCar Moments at Laguna Seca

Teo Fabi won the first IndyCar race at Laguna Seca in 1983 (Dan Wildhirt)

1983: Laguna Seca holds its first race on October 23. In the penultimate race of the season, rookie Teo Fabi leads 95 of 98 laps. The polesitter wins by 10 seconds over Mario Andretti.

1989: In the second year of the Marlboro Challenge exhibition, the race is moved to Laguna Seca.

Galles Racing driver Al Unser Jr. leads 33 of 45 laps and beats Danny Sullivan by 4.1 seconds. The track would host the event again in 1991.

A day after, Laguna Seca holds the season finale for the first time. Penske Racing’s Rick Mears leads 47 of 84 laps to win.

Meanwhile, Patrick Racing’s Emerson Fittipaldi finishes fifth and bests Mears by ten points to win the championship. Laguna Seca becomes the season finale for the next seven seasons.

1994: Mario Andretti says “Arrivederci” to IndyCar, running his 407th and final start on October 9. The four-time champion runs 80 of 84 laps, finishing 19th after engine issues.

Penske Racing driver Paul Tracy leads all 84 laps to win by 21.417 over Raul Boesel, his second straight win at the track.

1996: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmy Vasser clinches the championship by 22 points over Michael Andretti. It is Vasser’s rookie teammate Alex Zanardi who makes the headlines after the race.

Alex Zanardi completes “The Pass” on Bryan Herta (theamazoeffect.com)

On the last lap, Zanardi drives through the gravel on the corkscrew and passes Team Rahal’s Bryan Herta to win. Herta would best Zanardi two years later, the first of two straight wins at the track.

With that feat, he becomes the first driver to win in Indy Lights and IndyCar at the track. In 2002, Cristian da Matta (1997 Indy Lights winner at Laguna Seca) matches the feat.

2001: After starting 25th on the grid, Team Rahal’s Max Papis leads the final 16 laps to win.

Papis is the first and only driver to win after starting lower than sixth. It is the third win in four years at the track for car owner Bobby Rahal. Rahal also won four straight as a driver at Laguna Seca (1984-87).

2004: Bookending the track’s 22 year-run on the ChampCar (formerly CART) schedule, Gerry Forsythe once again sees his driver earn a victory at Laguna Seca. This time, it is Patrick Carpentier behind the wheel. Carpentier, who won in 2003 as well, leads 40 of 79 laps as the race is cut one lap short due to a time limit.

In 2015 and 2016, Laguna Seca hosts a doubleheader to end the IndyLights season. Juncos Racing’s Spencer Pigot sweeps the 2015 races en route to the title.

In 2016, Juncos’ Kyle Kaiser and Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach split the two races. Carlin Racing’s Ed Jones finishes fourth in the second race to win the title by two points over Schmidt-Peterson/Curb-Agajanian’s Santi Urrutia.

Header Image by DTM Imaging.

Spencer Neff

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