Weekend Preview — Memorial Day Weekend


Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR — the three biggest forms of motorsport in the world. One is European open-wheel racing on road courses, requiring the utmost precision each and every lap.

One is primarily American open-wheel racing with tracks varying from street courses to big super-speedways.  One is an American stock-car series, which races almost exclusively on oval-like tracks with a couple of road courses thrown in there somewhere.  All three are extremely difficult, all three are extremely different.  

But this Sunday, May 24, 2015, just like every Memorial Day Weekend, race fans are treated to a little special something.

The Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 — you’ve probably heard of at least one of those races before.  If not, here’s a quick refresher: Monaco and Indy are the Super Bowl’s of F1 and IndyCar.  The 600 is one of the few crowned jewels in NASCAR, and the longest race of the season, 600 miles.

In my usual previews, I talk about the NASCAR race(s) for the upcoming weekend and preview storylines, drivers, the race itself and much more.  But this one is going to be a little different.  I’m going to tell you about the best day of the year for race fans, talking about F1, IndyCar and NASCAR, respectively, and explain to you how it all works.

The Monaco Grand Prix is raced throughout the streets of the city in Monte Carlo, the second smallest city in the world.  There’s so much to do and so much going on during the race weekend in Monaco (parties, gambling, eating, whatever Monaco is famous for) that some forget there’s the biggest Formula 1 race of the year on those very streets.

Lewis Hamilton, the defending champion, who just signed a three-year contract extension worth a reported $150 million (making him the richest man in the United Kingdom) with his team, Mercedes, starts from P1.  His teammate and two-time defending winner of the Monaco GP, Nico Rosberg, starts P2 with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel starting third.

It should be a great race on the streets as always, but for fans that aren’t too familiar with F1, don’t expect a ton of passing or typical action you would see in NASCAR.  The streets are so tight that there’s almost nowhere to pass.  Nonetheless, race fans around the world will be waking up early and staying up late to catch this race.

Once that race ends around 10:00 a.m. ET (green flag is around 8:00 a.m. ET), fans will grab some breakfast and get ready for the greatest spectacle in racing: the Indianapolis 500.

This year’s running will be the 99th, and the tradition has not shrunk.  Every year, over 300,000 people come to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the cars zoom by at 220+ MPH in a flash.

This year, 2008 winner Scott Dixon starts on the pole.  But it didn’t come without controversy.

Long story short, in the weeks leading up to the race, cars were going faster than ever and were bordering on the edge of control.  Some cars ended up flipping and got in some nasty crashes.  Most drivers were okay, but James Hinchcliffe wasn’t.  He slammed into the SAFER barrier (thank god) at 220 MPH when his right front suspension failed.  I’ll save the gruesome parts, but basically, a part of the car went into his leg and he could’ve died on the scene because of blood loss.  But thankfully, he underwent surgery and is recovering now.  He is out from IndyCar competition indefinitely, but the important thing is that he’s okay.

Ed Carpenter and Helio Castroneves were some notable drivers who were involved in other nasty crashes, but were both okay.  Castroneves is aiming for his fourth Indy 500 win, which would tie him for the most all-time with A.J. Foyt.  The green flag for that race is scheduled for around 12:15 p.m.  Since it’s 500 miles, it will last until about 4:00, and it should be a good one.

Last but not least is the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race.  Six-hundred miles around Charlotte Motor Speedway.  This year, Matt Kenseth will start on the pole with Joey Logano and Carl Edwards second and third.  Kevin Harvick, a two-time winner of this race, will start eighth.

NASCAR is also honoring fallen soldiers on the windshields of each car, proving once again that NASCAR is indeed ‘Merica.  But in all seriousness, every year, there is a beautiful ceremony that honors our troops that allow us to enjoy all the freedoms that we take for granted every day in Charlotte.

That race is scheduled to go green around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. ET.  But get comfortable, because 600 miles is a LONG time.  I would expect the checkered flag to drop around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m.  So grab a snack, put on your favorite driver’s race gear and enjoy yourself.

Now it’s that time again: PREDICTIONS: THRICE!  For F1, I think Lewis Hamilton will continue his brilliant winning ways.  For IndyCar, I think Helio Castroneves gets his fourth win and drinks the celebratory milk in victory lane.  And for NASCAR, I think that Kasey Kahne wins again at Charlotte, as he is long overdue for a win in equipment as good as his.  But honestly, who cares about these predictions — I’m hyped!

Who gets up at 7:30 am to watch a car race?  THIS DUDE.  And many other dudes and dudettes like me will do the same.  Enjoy the best day of the year, race fans.