Great racing, finishes on Memorial Day weekend

Wow! Memorial Day weekend was one of fantastic finishes. Although the Monaco F1 race ended on a predictable note, the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 most certainly did not.

Sebastian Vettel continued his almost unbelievable season with his first Monaco win after a late-race red flag allowed the Red Bull driver to get new tires and drive away from the pursuing Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Jensen Button (McLaren). The race's controversial action occurred when Button's teammate Lewis Hamilton was penalized for running into both Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Williams driver Pastor Maldonado. The two drive-through penalties incensed Hamilton to the point where he speculated that he might leave Formula 1. England's Daily Mail quoted Hamilton as saying, "I am here to race and win. If I have to lose that passion it would blow all the racing. If it ever comes to a stage where I had to pull back, drive for fourth or fifth place and just cruise around it would not excite me and I probably wouldn't stay around for that." Maybe NASCAR's "Boys, have at it" philosophy might beckon Lewis?

Rookie J.R. Hildebrand went into the history books at Indy, but not in a way he would like. With a win seemingly assured, Hildebrand made a rookie mistake in the final turn of the final lap and hit the wall, handing the victory to Dan Wheldon. It was the second Indy win for the Briton. Hildebrand's mangled car slid across the line in second. It was certainly the year of the underdog at Indy, with Alex Tagliani taking pole for Sam Schmidt's team and Wheldon getting the win for Brian Herta Autosport, which is also affiliated with Schmidt's group. The Target-Ganassi cars of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were strong for much of the race, but faded at the end, and the often-dominant Team Penske cars were never a factor.

And we saw another last-lap surprise at Charlotte, when after 603 miles of racing it all came down to fuel mileage. Kevin (The Closer) Harvick sailed by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s sputtering Chevy coming out of the fourth turn to take the win. A crash caused by Jamie McMurray running out of gas on the green/white/checker restart did not bring out the yellow flag, and that situation immediately inflamed the conspiracy theorists. Junior fans and others variously blamed NASCAR for trying to give the win to Junior by not waving the caution flag for the accident and for denying him the victory when they didn't wave it on the white flag lap, freezing the field. My feeling is that NASCAR has once again shown their inconsistency in applying the caution, because that accident would certainly have resulted in a yellow flag if it had happened earlier in the race. As Jeff Burton (who was involved in the wreck) told the Charlotte Observer, "You can debate all day long if NASCAR should have thrown a caution for a reason other than safety on Sunday night. They have certainly thrown them for less."

This weekend Formula 1 and IndyCar are dark, but NASCAR has all three major divisions active. Camping World trucks will race this afternoon at Kansas, the Nationwide series has a night race tonight at Chicagoland Speedway, and the Sprint Cup series runs at Kansas tomorrow. Trevor Bayne returns to the Nationwide series in the Roush-Fenway number 16 Ford after a nine-week layoff due to a mysterious and yet-undisclosed illness. Danica Patrick also returns in the number 7 JR Motorsports Chevy, and the Joe Gibbs Racing number 20 to have been driven by Joey Logano has been withdrawn due to lack of sponsorship. With Logano out, the other 43 entrants are all assured of a starting spot for tonight's race.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the success that Gardnerville's Tanner Thorson has been enjoying in Outlaw karts. Thorson, who recently turned 15, made his 360 wingless sprint car debut last weekend at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico. Driving the Browns Valley RV car for Meyers Brothers Racing, Tanner finished third in his heat race and eighth in the main after running as high as fifth.


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