MONTEREY, California – Alexander Rossi has many fond memories of Indy car racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, even though he’s never raced an Indy car at the famed road course.
“A lot of people think Sonoma is my home track, but it really is here,” said Rossi, who admitted feeling emotional when walking around the track on Thursday.
“My dad brought me here for the first time when I was 3, and even though I don’t remember that race, it was a father-son thing we did until I was 11 before I transitioned to go-karts because of being here and loving the racing here.”
Rossi joined 20 other NTT IndyCar Series drivers (23 were scheduled but AJ Foyt Racing chose to sit out due to forecasted weather) for a one-day test at the 2.238-mile circuit on Friday, which served as an unofficial kickoff to the 2019 season.
But Rossi wasn’t the only driver with pleasant memories at the track, which will host the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey in September.
“A fantastic circuit,” five-time NTT IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon said. “I’ve thought that since I first came here in 1999. It’s been a great reception and there’s a lot of people out here today.”
Carlin’s Max Chilton raced in the United States for the first time at WeatherTech Raceway in what was the Star Mazda championship in 2007 and won double poles for Indy Lights races at the track in 2015. That history helps make it one of the Englishman’s favorites.
“I really love this track,” he said after hopping into the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. “I feel comfortable here, but the guys have worked incredibly hard all winter. I haven’t been in the car in five months, but they still developed the car. This is our first test and obviously the work has paid off. It was only one morning, but it is a good sign.”
The morning, though, was the only activity of the day as rain cut short the test during the one-hour lunch break. Still, it gives Chilton and the second-year Carlin squad confidence heading into the NTT IndyCar Series’ official Spring Training open test at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, next week.”
“We planned for (rain), so we took a chance and used all of our tires up,” said Chilton, who said he was among the fastest drivers at the test even though official times were not available.
“I think we’ve learned a lot and are really feel comfortable for when we come back in September. Hopefully, we can continue this in to Austin and then Sebring (for a test) and then the opener in St. Petersburg.”
The 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10 (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).