Congratulations to the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup All-Star race champion, Kyle Larson. The win is a big boost to a so-far lackluster season for the Ganassi Chevy pilot, and that million-dollar check is icing on the cake. Larson actually had two victories on the evening, winning the Open to advance to the All-Star.
Sunday is arguably the biggest weekend of the year for race fans. The day kicks off with the Monaco Grand Prix on ESPN2. Next up is the Indy 500 on NBC, moving from ABC for the first time since the race has been televised live. Finally, the day concludes with NASCAR’s longest race, the Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Make sure you have lots of snacks and beverages on hand, because it will be a long day. Unless of course it rains, in which case we may be watching on Monday.
The Mercedes juggernaut will be looking to continue its domination of the Formula One season, but Monaco hasn’t been its best track the last two years, after a four-year string of victories. It will also be missing a key member of the team, as F1 legend and two-time driving champion Niki Lauda passed away this past week at the age of 70. But perhaps this will give Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas added incentive to win it in Niki’s memory. Daniel Ricciardo is the defending winner but will be aboard a Renault rather than the Red Bull that carried him to victory. Qualifying took place early Saturday and is critical, given the difficulty of passing on the tight, twisty street course.
Penske driver Simon Pagenaud starts the Indy 500 from the pole, continuing a good month of May for him. Winner of the Grand Prix of Indy two weeks ago, he’s the first Frenchman to take pole position since Rene’ Tomas in 1919, 100 years ago. He will have the whole Ed Carpenter Racing team nipping at his heels, with Carpenter himself starting second and teammates Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones third and fourth. Qualifying was plagued with rain, which hopefully will stay away today. Perhaps the biggest surprise in qualifying was the failure of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso to put his McLaren entry into the field. Ironically, Alonso’s fast time was faster than all three drivers who qualified in row 10, but they had locked in on day one of qualifying and couldn’t be bumped according to this year’s rules. Race coverage starts at 8 a.m. on NBC.
The final race of the day, the Coca-Cola 600, will air on FOX beginning at 3 p.m. Only six drivers in the 40-car field have won the 600. Jimmie Johnson leads the pack with four wins, the most recent in 2014. Kevin Harvick has two trips to victory lane in the 600, and Kurt Busch has one. The three most recent winners all have one victory each: Kyle Busch (2018), Austin Dillon (2017), and Martin Truex Jr. (2016). Will we see a new winner in the race, and also on the season? With the momentum Kyle Larson has coming off his All-Star victory, I think he’s a good bet. In qualifying Thursday afternoon, young William Byron put his Hendrick Camaro on the pole, edging out Aric Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Ford by .057 second. Kyle Busch’s Gibbs Racing Toyota was third, indicating all three makes are pretty much on a par. Larson qualified 25th, but it’s a long race, and as he demonstrated last Saturday night, he can come through the field to win.
Locally, Fernley 95A Speedway has canceled Saturday’s program but will be back in action June 15.
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