If you’re searching for an American racetrack with a unique history, look no further than Laguna Seca on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Built on property that was once part of the Army’s Fort Ord, racing began here in 1957 and has continued ever since.

After decades of the track being managed by a local non-profit organization, the racing community was surprised in 2020, when Monterey County awarded the rights to manage Laguna Seca to a Mr. John V. Narigi.

Who? John is a businessman from the Monterey area hospitality industry. How? John overcame several competing bids submitted by “heavy hitters” from the racing community. Within days, wild rumors of John’s intentions to shut down the track and build a locked gate housing community or a private tennis club were flying over the web. Lawsuits followed.

Two years later, John is still at the helm, and Sports Car Digest thought it would be a good time to catch up with him—as well as with Barry Toepke, his Director of Marketing and Communications. Barry is also the event manager of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, one of the world’s largest vintage racing celebrations, which is held every August at the track.

John Narigi of Laguna Seca

John Narigi of Laguna Seca
John V. Narigi
President ? General Manager
Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca

JN – I’m John Narigi, president and general manager of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Laguna Seca Recreation Area.

Barry Toepke of Laguna Seca

Barry Toepke of Laguna Seca
Barry Toepke
Director of Marketing and Communications
Event Manager Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

BT – Barry Toepke – Director of Heritage Events and Public Relations.

DG – Enhancing the Laguna Seca experience for spectators—I know that’s always been a goal of the track and it kind of fell behind a little bit before you guys came on. What are you doing to enhance the spectators’ experience—coming in, walking around the track, where you park, where you find a restroom, the food?

JN – I took over on January 1, 2020, and then we all know what happened a couple of months later [referring to the COVID-19 pandemic]. That lingered and kept the track closed until June 1, 2020, when we reopened track rentals under very strict health and safety protocols. [After] June 15, 2021, we were allowed to open with spectators but with restrictions on hospitality services, yet we introduced a kids’ zone with three or four different types of activities, which were well received. We now offer go-karts at all race events. And [we’re] reviewing the potential of starting a karting program.

As for food and beverage, we will be upgrading the offerings and service in 2022. If there was one item that really stood out, we didn’t have enough vendors, and some of the vendors had a very tough time delivering what they needed to produce at the standard requested, mainly due to the pandemic.

We are also upgrading the Flag room hospitality area and rebranding it to The Legends Club, offering a superior experience for guests. As it relates to other experiences, we have some great plans regarding the (Rolex) Reunion. We’re looking at how to layout our paddock for all our major races. That would be from the Turn 3 structure through the entire paddock area, to make it more welcoming and not just a place where a race is being set up with the transporters and all the vendors in one place.

Although, there are a lot of people, racing professionals and racing enthusiasts, who love to experience the behind-the-scenes action. They like to see tires being changed and mechanics working on the race cars. Guests enjoy the excitement of an open paddock.

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By: Dennis Gray
Title: A Conversation with John Narigi and Barry Toepke of Laguna Seca
Sourced From: sportscardigest.com/a-conversation-with-john-narigi-and-barry-toepke-of-laguna-seca/
Published Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2022 13:35:48 +0000

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