To say last weekend’s racing was interesting might qualify for the understatement of the year. From the Monaco Formula 1 race’s topsy-turvy results to the Indy 500 qualifying battle between the veterans and the young guns, to the NASCAR Texas hydroplane races, fans were on the edge of their seats.
Sunday we will see the longest races of the year for both IndyCar and NASCAR Cup, so make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand.
Although it seemed the wheels fell off for the dominant Mercedes F1 team at Monaco, one wouldn’t come off at all. After a frustrating qualifying session, Mercedes started with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton mired deep in the field in seventh and teammate Valtteri Bottas starting third.
Polesitter Charles Leclerc set fast time but immediately crashed, ending qualifying with a red flag. The car was repaired, but hidden damage caused transmission failure on the warmup lap and the Monaco resident was once again out of his home race.
This left Red Bull’s Max Verstappen alone on the front row for the standing start, and he cut across Bottas’ bow to take the lead. Bottas stayed with him until the first pit stop when the right front wheel refused to come off of the Mercedes and Bottas retired. This left Verstappen to romp home for the win followed by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen now leads Hamilton by four points in the drivers’ championship race while Red Bull is ahead of the constructors’ points race by a single point.
Indy 500 qualifying had 35 cars entered for the 33 grid spots. Sunday morning’s “bumping” session was a nail biter that saw veteran and former 500 winner Will Power fighting to make the field. He did, along with the sole female entrant, Simona de Silvestro.
The fastest of the “Fast Nine” was six-time champion Scott Dixon, taking the pole just 3/100 of a mile per hour ahead of young gun Colton Herta. The front three rows are a mix of veterans and youngsters, and it’s a tossup as to which camp will prevail in Sunday’s race. Coverage on NBC starts at 8 a.m.
Racing in the rain is a recent innovation for NASCAR, and only on road courses. The Cup series’ first visit to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas tested the concept to its limits.
The track was semi-dry at the start, and drivers were given the option to start on rain tires or slicks. Austin Cindric, on slicks, showed his rain-racing prowess early on, leading four laps before conditions worsened. The rain resumed and then got heavier, leading to visibility issues, some vicious rear-end crashes, and a red flag at lap 25. Conditions continued to deteriorate, and the race was finally called at lap 54 with Chase Elliott taking the win.
I’m glad that three of my picks finished in the top five – Elliott first, Kyle Larson second, and A.J. Allmendinger fifth. Elliott became the 11th driver to win this season, scoring Chevrolet’s 800th NASCAR Cup victory. It was also the 268th Cup win for Hendrick Motorsports, tying the record held by Petty Enterprises.
Sunday is NASCAR’s version of endurance racing, the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte. There are six former 600 winners in the field with Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick winning twice and Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, and the Busch brothers winning one each.
Larson is the race favorite at 5-1 odds with Truex at 11-2, Kyle Busch 13-2, Elliott 7-1, and Denny Hamlin 15-2. The race airs at 3 p.m. on FOX.
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