Memorial Day weekend marks one of the fastest and most exciting days on the auto racing calendar. All in the same day, three of the most notable races in the motor sports world takes place: the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500, and the Coca-Cola 600.
Our first stop on the worlds fastest day is in Monaco for the most notorious and challenging race on the Formula 1 schedule, the Monaco Grand Prix. Taking place in one of the richest parts of the world, the stars were out in full force to watch the worlds best drivers put their skills to the test in the streets of one of the tightest racing surfaces on the planet.
This years grand prix was full of sparks, smoke, and drama as there was an unusual number of cautions for an F1 race. Four cars failed to make it to the finish after crashing including Ferraris Felipe Massa. Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, and Pastor Maldonado were the other three drivers that failed to finish after crashing.
The day belonged to local boy Nico Rosberg who led wire-to-wire to win the Monaco Grand Prix on the 30th anniversary of his father winning the historic race. Sebastian Vettel finished second and Mark Webber rounded out the podium with a third place finish.
Next, we travel to the United States for the historic and often labeled “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and the Indianapolis 500. This years race marked the 97th running of the historic event and it was by far one of the best ones yet.
Home town hero Ed Carpenter sat on the pole for the race with Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz also on the front row on the grid. Favorite, and 3-time winner, Dario Franchitti started 17th. Franchitti and Helio Castroneves were both aiming for their fourth Indy 500 title which would make them just the fifth driver to do so.
While Franchitti was among the favorites, it was Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, and Marco Andretti that would battle it out amongst themselves for much of the race. AJ Allmendinger, Will Power, Carlos Munoz, and Ryan Hunter-Reay hung around at the top, as well.
The race was tightly contested as every lap was raced as though it was the last. Rarely did we see a driver maintain the lead for more than ten laps as we saw 68 total lead changes throughout the race which beats the record by 30 lead changes.
One of the weirdest circumstances during the Indy 500 came down on pit road. IRL officials fined Graham Rahal and James Jakes $10,000 each for pit road infractions. The fines were handed down right in the middle of the race following the infractions. Bobby Rahal said in an interview not long after that the IRL was “flying by the seat of their pants” when making that decision.
Back to the action on the track…
With ten laps to go, Tony Kanaan was out front and battling Ryan Hunter-Reay for the led when a caution was thrown after Graham Rahal’s day went from bad to worse and he ended up in the infield wall after spinning on the back stretch with five laps remaining. One of the most competitive races in Indy 500 history was headed to a green-white-checkered three lap shootout finish.
On the restart Tony Kanaan made a daring move to this inside as he, Hunter-Reay, and Carlos Munoz dove into turn one three-wide for the lead. Kanaan was the one that held the top spot coming out of turn number one and as he did so Dario Franchitti wrecked which brought out the caution and ended the race.
After 11 years of heartbreak, Tony Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500 with Carlos Munoz finishing in second, Ryan Hunter-Reay in third and points leader James Hinchcliffe came in 21st.
The last stop in the fastest day in motor sports comes in North Carolina for the Coca-Cola 600, the longest and most grueling race on the NASCAR schedule. Along with being the longest, it is also considered a “home race” since NASCAR is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the track is located.
The 400 lap raced was red flagged three times to clear debris and cars from the track. The first stoppage was for something we’ve likely never seen before and will never see again.
FOX Sports coverage of the race has a special camera that runs the length of the front stretch and is held in the sky by a series of cables that connect to the top of the front stretch grand stands as well as tall poles in the infield. During the race, one of these cables broke and fell to the track right as the field was passing under it.
It tore up a number of race cars and NASCAR red flagged the race to clean up the quarter-mile long cable and then stopped the race for another 15 minutes to give teams a chance to repair damage done to their cars from this non-racing incident. That move was applauded by many in the NASCAR garage.
Once the racing returned, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, and Kurt Busch ran at the front for most of the evening with Matt Kenseth following not too far behind. After engine troubles, Kyle Busch was unable to finish and Matt Kenseth, Jimmy Johnson, and Juan Pablo Montoya were all taken out of the race due to a late caution.
After battling it out with Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick busted through and won the Coca-Cola 600. Harvick was able to pass Kahne in the final laps as he had fresher tires on his car. Kasey Kahne finished second, Kurt Busch finished third, and points leader Jimmie Johnson limped home in 22nd.
What a day it was, race fans. The fastest day in the world certainly did not disappoint and it kept fans everywhere on the edge of their seats the entire day.
Happy Memorial Day, America.
- Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500 in his 12th attempt (usatoday.com)
- Monaco Grand Prix as it happened: Nico Rosberg takes Monte Carlo win in incident-packed race (mirror.co.uk)
- MST: Harvick wins Coca-Cola 600 amidst cable issues (motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com)