A decision regarding the future stewardship of the historic Laguna Seca racetrack in Monterey could be approaching, and the group calling itself Friends of Laguna Seca appears to have the pole position.
Monterey County officials have elected to move forward with only one of three parties seeking management of the automobile and motorcycle raceway.
In a statement, the county Board of Supervisors said it had directed staff members responsible for the racetrack's future "to negotiate initially with the Friends of Laguna Seca for a Concession Agreement for Laguna Seca Recreational Area."
That appears to sideline competing efforts by the professional racetrack management company International Speedway Corp. and by a partnership between veteran California race entrepreneur Chris Pook and Monterey Peninsula restaurateur Landon Hofman.
It also may sideline the racetrack's longtime custodians, the volunteer-based Sports Car Racing Assn. of the Monterey Peninsula, or SCRAMP, which has run the Laguna Seca concession since 1957.
For now, SCRAMP continues to manage the concession, which continues to operate as usual.
But the county added in its statement that, despite its decision to go forward only with Friends of Laguna Seca, "all other potential concessionaires are still seen as viable candidates."
The 2.2-mile track is one of the country's most respected racing venues, as well as one of the most technically challenging, and it annually hosts some of the power sports industries' most important races.
Friends of Laguna Seca has positioned itself as a nonprofit group of local racing enthusiasts "committed to preserving the historic racing legacy," its website says.
The small group consists of locals Bruce Canepa, Jonathan Fieber, Warren Spieker Jr., Ross Merrill, Thomas Minnich and Gordon McCall — many of them car racers or restorers or collectors — as well as race management professional Lauri Eberhart.
Sources close to the ongoing negotiations, who were not authorized to speak to the media, have said that the Friends proposal includes substantial capital investment in the racetrack, a plan to improve the camping and target-shooting facilities that are part of the Laguna Seca recreation area and efforts to bring a better and more profitable mixture of events to the venue.
Monterey County officials declined to expand on their decision to continue negotiating with only one group. But a county Grand Jury report this summer blasted SCRAMP's management record at the massive facility, which lies several miles inland from the seaside towns of Monterey, Seaside and Pebble Beach.
Officials concluded in that report that, because of SCRAMP's poor performance, the track was in need of at least $10 million in capital improvements and $2 million in immediate operating costs. The report said that, despite the sale of 234,000 tickets sold to events in 2015, SCRAMP was experiencing operating shortfalls of at least $250,000 a year.
The track's longtime caretakers had teamed with International Speedway Corp. in a bid to take charge of Laguna Seca's future.
It is not clear what would become of SCRAMP and its volunteers if Friends of Laguna Seca wins the concession.