Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Laguna Seca Raceway, 1025 Monterey Highway 68, Salinas, CA

Laguna Seca Ranch
The earliest development of the local area occurred in 1867 with the founding of the nearby Laguna Seca Ranch, by William Fischer, bought at a Sheriff's Auction, which has operated
continuously for 140 years with grazing and equestrian uses. (1)
The Ranch was the site of the first orange trees grown in Hidalgo County.(3)

The track was built in 1957 at a cost of $1.5 million raised from local businesses and individuals on part of the US Army's Fort Ord (a maneuver area and field artillery target range) after the nearby Pebble Beach Road Races were abandoned for being too dangerous. Although the course was always tight and twisty with tall Cypress trees hemming in the track on either side, accidents were scarce and relatively uneventful. The exception came in 1956 when Ernie McAfee (no relation to fellow racer Jack McAfee) fatally slammed his Ferrari into a tree. This spelled the end of the popular Pebble Beach Road Races, although it was the genesis of Laguna Seca, its modern-day successor.

The first race, held on November 9, 1957, was won by Pete Lovely driving a Ferrari.

Steve McQueen raced in the 1959 Laguna Seca event, which was held over the weekend of October 24 & 25, 1959. The event race program lists him as competing in his Lotus Lemans XI in the time trials on the 24th, but his final placing details are unknown.

1965 - A young, almost unknown Jackie Stewart makes his U.S. debut at Laguna Seca driving in the USRRC in a factory Lotus Cortina and finshes 13th overall.
1974 - the property was deeded over to the Monterey County Parks Department and continues to be part of the park system to this day.
1975 - Mario Andretti, in a Lola T332, wins the Monterey Grand Prix featuring the F5000 series.
1981 - Laguna Seca hosts its first NASCAR race with the Winston West and has Bobby Allison on the grid. Paul Newman races in the Monterey Triple Crown in a Datsun Turbo.
1987 - Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at Laguna Seca Raceway, where 72,000 people had gathered to see him.
1988 - The infield was added to extend the track from 9 turns to 11 turns and from 1.9 miles to the current length of 2.238 miles to meet FIM regulations.

Jerry performed here on 7/31/88 with Los Lobos

..and with The Grateful Dead

1.)^ Environmental Site Assessment: Laguna Seca Ranch, Earth Metrics Inc., on file with the County of Monterey (1989)
2.)^ Glick, Shav (October 12, 1987). "Laguna Seca Indy Car Race". The Los Angeles Times.
3.)^The Victorian Advocate, 1993-06-18, pg22
4.)^Ultimate Motorcycling, 2010-02-12, laguna seca raceway racing history

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