I hope this Sunday’s marathon of racing equals the excitement last weekend provided. Although there were only 34 cars for the 33 starting spots in the Indianapolis 500, there was drama at both ends of the field. Jack Harvey bumped teammate Graham Rahal from the field as time expired, by a .007-second margin. At the sharp end of the grid, Alex Palou edged Rinus Veekay for the pole by .006-second, setting the fastest pole time in the race’s history. And if that wasn’t enough drama, an injury to Stefan Wilson in Monday practice put Rahal back in the field, a Honda driver in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Chevy for the 500! And at North Wilkesboro Speedway, Kyle Larson came through the field to take the $1 million NASCAR All-Star purse after a horrible heat race. Can we expect that kind of drama Sunday in the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the Coca-Cola 600? I sure hope so.
This year, there are nine former winners in the Indy field. Helio Castroneves has won it four times, most recently in 2021. Takuma Sato has two wins, 2017 and 2020. One-time winners include Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, and Marcus Ericsson. It’s hard to compare the anemic 34 entries this year with the glory days of old. There were 67 entries for the race in 1951, 65 in 1963, 61 in 1972, 45 in 1995, and 41 in 2000. I hope we see at least a small increase in the coming years. Sunday’s race will air on NBC with coverage beginning at 8 a.m. and the green flag at 9:45 a.m.
This weekend is NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Seven active drivers have won this race, most recently Denny Hamlin in 2022. Larson, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick are the other winners, with Truex and Harvick both winning twice. As usual, Larson is the odds-on favorite at 9-2 with teammate William Byron at 11-2. Hamlin is 13-2, Truex 17-2, Chase Elliott 9-1 and Ross Chastain sharing 11-1 odds with Busch and Christopher Bell. Harvick is the first Ford driver at 18-1. One year soon I hope to see Larson attempt the Indy 500/Coke 600 “double.” If any current driver can win both, he’s the guy. Today, FS1 will broadcast the Xfinity Series’ Alsco Uniforms 300 at 10 a.m. with NASCAR Cup practice and qualifying to follow at 4 p.m. On Sunday, the Coca Cola 600 airs on FOX, starting at 2:30 p.m.
Kicking off the day’s racing action Sunday is the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco. The most glamorous event on the F1 calendar, it has been an annual feature since 1929 except for pauses for WWII and Covid. The tight street circuit is better suited to cars of the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s than today’s much larger, more powerful cars. It is probably the most difficult circuit on the F1 calendar to pass on, so qualifying will be key. Because of the tight track conditions, Monaco may be the best chance for some team other than Red Bull to win. Red Bull drivers have won the previous two years, with Sergio Perez taking last year’s race and Max Verstappen winning in 2021 (there was no 2020 race due to Covid). Lewis Hamilton holds the current record for wins there, prevailing in 2008, 2016, and 2019. Fernando Alonso was the 2006 and 2007 winner. Qualifying airs today at 6 a.m. on ESPN and ABC will broadcast the race at 6 a.m. Sunday.
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