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Laguna Seca to host INDYCAR for at least next three seasons

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INDYCAR made it official today: the 2019 season-ending race will move a couple of hours down the Northern California coast to WeatherTechRaceway Laguna Seca.

Sonoma Raceway, which has hosted INDYCAR since 2005 – including the last five season-ending races (that includes this year’s upcoming season finale) – will not be part of next season’s schedule.

Earlier today, the Monterey County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors, which oversees operation of the iconic racing facility, approved a three-year agreement with INDYCAR to host next year’s season finale on Sept. 20-22, 2019.

The remaining two race dates for 2020 and 2021 will be announced later, according to an INDYCAR media release.

The 2.238-mile permanent road course previously hosted CART and Champ Car World Series Indy car races from 1983 through 2004, including the season-ending races from 1989 through 1996.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. “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.”

Bobby Rahal, former CART/CCWS driver and current INDYCAR team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, won four of the prior 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca, all consecutively (1984-87).

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” Rahal said. “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.”

In addition to Rahal as a multiple winner, two-time winners at Laguna Seca were fellow current INDYCAR team co-owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta, INDYCAR on NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy, Danny Sullivan and Patrick Carpentier.

“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.”

Shortly after INDYCAR released the Laguna Seca announcement, Sonoma Raceway President and General Manager Steve Page issue the following statement: “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.”

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NHRA: Alexis DeJoria reveals sponsorship for return to Funny Car

Photo courtesy ROKiT/Alexis DeJoria Racing
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Returning to NHRA Funny Car competition after a two-year hiatus, Alexis DeJoria has announced her new team will be sponsored by ABK Beer and ROKiT Phones for the full 24-race 2020 NHRA national event season.

ABK Beer is a 700-year-old Bavarian beer brand, while ROKiT further expands its reach in motorsports, also sponsoring the ROKiT Williams Racing Formula 1 team and the ROKiT Venturi Racing Formula E team.

Both brands have signed multi-year deals to sponsor DeJoria and her 11,000-horsepower Toyota Camry Funny Car. Also, in a unique twist, ROKiT smartphones will engage fans of DeJoria and NHRA with “innovative 3D content,” according to a media release.

“Joining Del Worsham’s newly-formed DC Motorsports team was just the first step in reigniting my quest at being the first female Funny Car world champion, and I’m thrilled that ROKiT is coming along for the ride,” DeJoria said in the media release. “I can’t wait to get back on the track and am energized and excited about all the things we have in store for the amazing NHRA fans.”

DeJoria will join a number of Top Fuel and Funny Car teams in Las Vegas for the annual preseason test-and-tune – otherwise known as “spring training” – on February 1 and 2.

This is the first time the test session will be held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It has previously been held for at least the last two decades at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

The 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opens the following weekend — February 6-9 — with the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

DeJoria, who is married to reality TV star Jesse James, is particularly looking forward to returning to Pomona. It was there where she made drag racing history, becoming the first female to clock a sub-four second run (3.997 seconds) in the 2014 season opener.

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