Danny Sullivan offered a quick assessment of his feelings for INDYCAR’s return next week to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, a picturesque permanent road course in the hills near his home in Monterey, Calif.
“It’s about time,” he said.
Three years after winning the 1985 Indianapolis 500, Sullivan clinched CART’s season championship at Laguna Seca (see photo from that race below). He was so connected to the track and the Monterey Peninsula that he moved there in 2005.
That move came only a few months after Patrick Carpentier won his second consecutive Champ Car World Series race at the track. Sullivan expected Indy cars to return, especially after unification of the sport in 2008, but it didn’t happen until now.
The race weekend is Sept. 20-22.
Sullivan, 69, could be considered Laguna Seca’s top cheerleader because he considers it one of his favorite tracks, and that's saying a lot. Remember, this is an individual whose driving career took him to Formula One before he became an Indy car legend driving for Team Penske.
“First of all, it’s a fabulous racetrack,” Sullivan said of the 11-turn, 2.258-mile circuit. “It’s a great place to have an INDYCAR race, and we always had great crowds here, and I think it’s going to be a super event. Hopefully it will add excitement to the championship.”
Sullivan noted how much entertaining past Indy car teams have done in the area that includes Carmel and Pebble Beach.
“September in California is probably our best month weather-wise,” he said. “You add all that stuff together and this is just a great place to come – a great place to crown a champion.”
Sullivan described the circuit as being “hard on brakes” and the race winner will likely have to deal with traffic, as he did in the past.
“It’s a challenging track to drive and the legendary Corkscrew (corner) is never dull on any lap you do,” he said. “If your car is working good there’s three or four places per lap where you can (pass), and remember it’s only a track of about 2 miles, so four spots in 2 miles is good. And, if someone makes a mistake you can add a couple of more spots onto that.
“You’ve got to be on your game.”
The best places to view the action, Sullivan said, are at the top of the Corkscrew and in the Turn 4 grandstands. “From (Turn 4) you can see them go hard into Turn 2 if they’re racing there,” he said.
IMSA is staging a race at the track this weekend, and the local promotion has given this stretch of the month a speed-week feel. The community has noticed, Sullivan said.
“There’s a lot of people staying all next week, and I think INDYCAR’s test day next Thursday (Sept. 19) is going to help a lot of them teams,” he said. “I think you’re going to see an even more competitive field.
“People here are excited to have Indy cars back again, and so am I. It’s a super venue, and it’s going to be a great ending to the season.”
INDYCAR concludes its 17-race season with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 22. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT local) with the green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).