One wild weekend of racing
Wet weather in West Virginia was the story of the Memorial Day weekend.
Both Elkins Raceway and Tyler County Speedway canceled their weekend events. The World of Outlaw Late Models were to run the Earl Hill Memorial at Tyler, and Friday Night was to be the third night of Thunder in the Mountains at Elkins. Both events will be rescheduled at a later date. There was, however, no shortage of racing action to be enjoyed.
The Formula One Grand Prix racers took to the twists and turns of the streets of Monaco for the Grand Prix of Monaco. This beautiful seaside city is without a doubt one of the most interesting and breathtaking venues that these exotic race cars visit.
This year’s event was missing champion driver Fernando Alonzo, who chose to race at Indy rather than continue to struggle with a non-competitive car in Formula One. Team Ferrari scored a very popular 1-2 finish in this year’s event. Sebastian Vettle defeated teammate Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull entry of Daniel Riccardo finished third. Valteri Bottas and Max Vonstappen rounded out the top five. This event still remains at the top of my bucket list of races to attend
The 101st running of the Indy 500 took center stage after Monaco. Qualifying speeds reached close to 235 mph at the storied two and a half mile rectangular speedway.
Pole sitter Scott Dixon set the early pace but several drivers were able to swap the lead around in a very competitive event. Early in the event, after pit stops, disaster struck! A slower car slipped high in turn one and struck the outside wall. It then veered into the path of the lead pack. Several cars missed him but Scott Dixon had no place to go and struck him as he crossed the track.
Dixon’s car was catapulted in the air and slammed onto the top of the infield safer barrier. The car tore out a piece of the catch fence and was severed just behind the engine. It then tumbled and skidded to a stop before a terrified crowd.
Almost before the car stopped moving, Dixon signaled he was OK and the crowd went wild with cheers as neither driver was injured.
Two storylines developed during the race. One was the drive of Alonzo, who was making his rookie start in an Indy car. He was able to lead laps and appeared to be a serious threat to win. He, along with several other drivers, became part of storyline number two. Honda had developed an engine package which had several more horse power than the Chevrolet engines. These engines proved to have reliability issues. Many of them suffered massive failures, including the one of Alonzo.
This year, Japanese driver Takumo Sato drove his Michael Andretti-owned, Honda-powered Delara chassis with Panasonic sponsorship to victory lane. Takumo drove a masterful race and passed Helio Castroneves’ Chevrolet-powered car in the closing laps to take the win. He almost won the event two years ago but crashed while battling Dario Franchitti for the win.
Rookie driver Ed Jones finished in third behind Castroneves. Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five. Sixth through 10th were Juan Pablo Montoya, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Gabby Chaves and Carlos Munoz.
The spectacle of this event is hard to explain. For more than 100 years, drivers have challenged this tough old speedway in some of the most technological race cars ever designed to have their faces added to the huge Borg-Warner trophy as Indy 500 Champion. This year it was a very personable Japanese driver who did it! Congratulations to the whole Andretti Motorsports team.
This leaves Charlotte Motor Speedway and the longest event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup schedule. The Coke-a-Cola World 600 weekend kicked off on Saturday with the Xfinity teams running the Hisense 4KTV 300. Cup star Kevin Harvick set the early pace and took stage one. It was Ryan Blaney who took over and won the second stage and the whole race. Harvick held on to second.
Austin Dillon made it a three-car sweep by Cup stars, finishing third. Christopher Bell finished fourth and was the highest-finishing Xfinity regular driver. Denny Hamlin finished fifth.
On Sunday evening the Cup cars rolled off into the night for the 600. Kyle Busch dominated the first stage with Martin Truex Jr. capturing stage two. These two drivers showed that they had the fastest cars and would be a threat to win. Truex went on to lead the most laps in the event.
Denny Hamlin snuck in and nabbed stage three. The race wound down to a long green run and Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon played the gas-mileage strategy to the end. Busch and Truex had to pit for fuel and it appeared Johnson would win another one at “Jimmie’s House.”
With only two laps remaining, Johnson’s car fell off the pace, out of fuel. This gave the lead over to the RCR Chevrolet number 3 of Austin Dillon. Dillon drove a solid race and grabbed his first Cup series win, which was a whole team effort. It was the feel-good story of the weekend and ended a 17-year drought for the number 3 being in victory lane.
Austin is the grandson of car owner Richard Childress and was overwhelmed in victory lane. There is nothing better than seeing a first-time winner in Cup.
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. held on to finish second and third. Matt Kenseth ran strong all evening and finished fourth. Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
There was a grinding crash under caution early when Brad Keselowski slammed into the slowing car of Chase Elliott, who had struck a piece of debris from the smoking car of Jeffery Earnhardt. None of the drivers were injured in this incident.
Wow, quite a weekend! This week we plan to run event number three at Elkins Raceway and it should be Fan Appreciation/Autograph Night. So bring the family, come on out and grab a picture of the Mud Bus and shake my hand along with all of the other competitors at Elkins Raceway. Remember, at the end of the straightaway there’s Another Left Turn!