Monterey Grand Prix
|Venue||Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca|
|First IL race||1983|
|Most wins (driver)||Bobby Rahal (5)|
|Most wins (team)||Penske Racing (8)|
|Most wins (manufacturer)||Lola (11)|
The Monterey Grand Prix was an auto race held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The race was first held as a USAC Road Racing Championship event, following the success of the SCCA's Pebble Beach Road Races. After USAC's road racing series disbanded in 1962, the race became a non-championship race for three years, before joining the Can-Am schedule. After Can-Am's demise in 1974, the event shifted to Formula 5000 for two years, then to the IMSA GT Championship for two more years, then to the revamped, Formula 5000-based Can-Am. The first Indy Car / CART / Champ Car World Series race was held in 1983, and the final race was held in 2004. The race was to be brought back to Champ Car in 2008, but after the series was absorbed by the Indy Racing League, the Atlantic Championship took over the headline event. For 2015, the race returned as part of Mazda Road to Indy Championship Weekend. All three lower tiers of INDYCAR's Road to Indy participate, as a standalone race.
Atlantic Championship/Indy Lights winners
One of the most legendary moments in the history of the CART Grand Prix of Monterey, and the CART series itself, occurred in 1996. The event was the final race of the 1996 CART season. Bryan Herta led most of the race during the second half, and in the closing laps, was leading Alex Zanardi. Zanardi was in close pursuit, but Herta had been successful thus far holding him off, and appeared to be en route to his first-career Indy car victory. With Zanardi's Ganassi teammate Jimmy Vasser essentially wrapping up the series title already, the attention in the closing laps focused in on the battle for the race lead.
On the final lap, the cars approached the famous "Corkscrew" turns, with Herta leading. It was a spot on the track where competitive passes were seldom, due to being a tight, steep downhill segment. Zanardi made a daring, diving pass to the inside as Herta was under braking, and slid into the lead. Zanardi, however, slid forward off the track, and his two right wheels went into the dirt. His left wheels also nearly left the apron, as he attempted to negotiate the car through the turns. As the hill dipped, and the corkscrew turns reversed, the inside lane became the outside line. His car bounced wildly over the curbing, throwing up dirt, and narrowly missed a barrier. He swung back across the track in front of Herta, with Herta narrowly missing a collision. Zanardi was able to gather control, and astonishingly made the pass stick. Zanardi held Herta off over the final two turns, and scored an improbable victory.
A surprised and dejected Herta was in total shock afterwards, naturally never expecting a pass of that nature in that location. Zanardi himself admitted it was an extremely high risk pass with little chance of success. In post-race evaluation, CART officials allowed the pass, but banned such moves in future races. The spectacular overtaking maneuver by Zanardi later became known in racing circles simply as "The Pass."