Allsport

IndyCar heading to Laguna Seca?

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TORONTO – The Verizon IndyCar Series is closing in on a new road course home in northern California for 2019.

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday to vote on approving a three-year contract to bring IndyCar to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track that played host to the CART series for more than 20 years.

According to a proposed agreement posted to the Monterey County website, the series would race from 2019-21 at the circuit at a date to be determined (the contract stipulates “IndyCar will exercise reasonable efforts to schedule future events during the same weekend as the 2019 event”).

The sanction fee, payable in three installments annually, will be $1.2 million for the first year and $1.5 million in each of the following two seasons.

A report for recommendation prepared by Lavonne Chin, the county’s special events manager, states that financing for the event (including the fees) will be achieved through sponsorship, concession and ticket sales.

The track apparently would replace Sonoma Raceway on the 2019 schedule. In a statement Friday, Sonoma president Steve Page indicated his track wasn’t interested in remaining on the schedule if Laguna Seca was added.

Sonoma has played host to IndyCar since 2005; the Sept. 16 race will mark its fourth consecutive season as the series’ season finale.

Laguna Seca was on the CART schedule from 1983-2003 and then shifted to the Champ Car Series for the 2004 race. After a four-year absence, it was scheduled to return in 2008, but its race was scrubbed when Champ Car merged with IndyCar.

The track, which also has hosted sports cars, currently has motorcycle races as its major events. It is managed in a joint agreement between the Monterey County administrative office and the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula.

IndyCar’s agreement calls for major upgrades to be completed at least two months ahead of the 2019 race, including improved curbing, tire barriers and additional timing loops and debris fencing.

One of the most famous passes in CART history occurred in the track’s corkscrew section when Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Zanardi went off course to snatch the lead from Bryan Herta on the final lap to win the 1996 season finale.

The news of Laguna Seca’s possible return took series points leader Scott Dixon by surprise after he led both practices Friday on the streets of Toronto. In CART, Dixon finished fourth at Laguna Seca in 2001 and sixth in ’02.

“Wow, that’s interesting,” said Dixon, who also won there in Indy Lights in 2000. “It’s quite a small track.”

Said Takuma Sato: “I never raced Laguna Seca, so we’ll find out. I would love to go there.”

Click here to see the three-year agreement with IndyCar that could be approved by Monterey County next week.

Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.