For 2022, the NASA Championships returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which is one of the oldest, most challenging and iconic racetracks in the world.
Road racing on the Monterey Peninsula started with the Pebble Beach Road Races in 1950. After successful runs through the public roads around the legendary golf course, the racing moved out to the Laguna Seca state park in late 1957, making a similar transition to a formal course as did Road America and Watkins Glen when the street circuits became too hazardous to run. The track layout has evolved over the years, but it remains a challenging world-class circuit.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has hosted nearly every major racing series in the sports car and motorcycle world and is the site of the famous Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion every year during Car Week when the finest vintage racecars are used as originally intended in full-blown competition. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is owned by Monterey County, and it brings in major revenue to the local economy and the park system because the track is located within the Laguna Seca county park. The county has recently passed a number of funding initiatives intended to bring the track back to its glory days and ensure its future for many years to come, and, in fact, it will be repaved after our Championships event. The track is celebrating its 65th birthday this year, and you can feel the history walking up and down the hills gazing out at the valley and the winding ribbon of asphalt snaking through the terrain.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is just east of the city of Monterey, Calif., which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
The airport in Monterey (MRY) has fairly limited capacity and rental cars go quickly. Flying into one of the major airports near Monterey and driving in is not too hard, and the drive leads you through some scenic areas if you take the coastal route. San Jose (SJC) is closest and the San Francisco Bay Area airports at San Francisco (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) are about two hours away.
If you’re driving in, access is good from U.S. Highway 101 via Highway 68, which takes you through Salinas and to the front gate of the track. Highways 152 and 156 are good access points off Interstate 5 that will lead you to 101.
Hotel rooms can be expensive and tough to get on the Monterey Peninsula because of the sheer volume of tourists drawn to the area year round. Hotel rooms are booked up often well in advance, but a good alternative is to look for a rental house that meets your needs. Pacific Grove, Monterey, Carmel Valley, Marina, and Seaside are all pretty ideal in terms of access to the track, but if you can stretch your budget, Carmel and Pebble Beach are lovely places with quiet well-appointed neighborhoods. There are beaches and tide pools to explore all along the shoreline if you stay near the coast but staying further inland puts you in the middle of rolling hills peppered with ancient Oaks and beautiful views.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is located inside a county park, so there are plenty of campsites ranging from rustic sites with few amenities to sites equipped with full hookups for RVs. Many of the sites have excellent vistas of the track, so this is a great option if you are the sort who enjoys the outdoor or RV lifestyle.
The Peninsula is full of excellent dining establishments, but a few really stand out. One of my favorites close to the track is the Baja Cantina on Carmel Valley Road that has a gearhead theme and excellent Mexican food. Tarpy’s Roadhouse is also not too far away and offers quite a bit of space if you have a big party of pals along for the meal. For something more simple and casual, Gianni’s Pizza in Monterey is a great family friendly place to grab a pie or calzone. If you can manage the crowds of tourists on Cannery Row, the Fish Hopper near the Monterey Bay Aquarium has great views of the bay and an excellent selection of fresh seafood including an outstanding clam chowder.
The track is located in a valley surrounded by steep hills and winds around the terrain challenging traction and confidence. Perhaps the most legendary turn is the Corkscrew, which drops five stories nearly blind on the preferred line or you can try an alternate route to create your own personal Zanardi Maneuver replete with a brief airborne disconnection from the track surface. The run from Turn 11 back to the finish line is usually taken flat out with a brief confidence lift in Turn 1 for the fastest cars and then you need a big bag of brakes to get things slowed down to make it around the Andretti Hairpin at Turn 2. It’s quite a roller coaster ride and you’ll end your weekend worn out and possibly with a better appreciation of how profoundly well gravity works. Look for a tutorial in Speed News in the coming weeks on the track from Blayze coach Dion Von Moltke.
As to services, there are usually tire vendors onsite and the local towns have plenty of auto parts stores and car dealers that can supply spares. There are also specialty automotive shops that can help with welding or other repairs on the Peninsula and in Salinas.
1021 Monterey-Salinas Highway
Salinas, CA 93908
7166 Carmel Valley Road
Carmel, CA 93923
2999 Monterey Salinas Hwy.
Monterey, CA 93940
725 Lighthouse Avenue
Monterey, CA 93940
700 Cannery Row, Suite K, Monterey, CA 93940