A friend of mine recently described the Sunday before Memorial Day as the race fan?s equivalent of New Year?s Day for college football fans. This is the Sunday that all race fans look forward to throughout the spring. This is the Sunday when you can watch Formula 1, The Indianapolis 500, and NASCAR?s Coca Cola 600 all in the same day!
The race programming on TV is almost non-stop from early in the morning to late into the night. Stock the refrigerator, lock the doors, and turn off the phones, I?m unavailable.
For me the day began at 7:00 AM with Speed?s coverage of the Turkish Grand Prix from Istanbul, Turkey. It didn?t end until nearly 11:30 PM with Kurt Busch swilling a Miller beer in Victory Lane at Charlotte. Take out the two hour gap after the F-1 race and before the start of the Indy 500 pre-race show and you have twelve and a half hours of motorsports television in one day.
I watched as Sebastian Vettel unnecessarily collided with teammate Mark Webber, taking himself out and ruining what would?ve surely been a 1-2 finish for Team Red Bull. I was right there watching Ashley Judd outrunning TV commentator Jerry Punch down pit road as her husband Dario Franchitti cruised into victory lane after dominating the Indy 500. And I was still awake when Kurt Busch was swilling a Miller beer in Charlotte?s victory lane.
Vettel?s miscue and resulting crash in Turkey handed the win and the lead in the constructor?s championship to Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.
In Indianapolis, Franchitti dominated, leading 155 of the race?s 200 laps and winning his second 500. (His first was in 2007) The victory also made Chip Ganassi the first car owner to win the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 in the same year.
And finally, in Charlotte, Kurt Busch held back all the challenges of the other makes, driving for the only Dodge team in NASCAR, and won the Coca Cola 600, the longest race on the NASCAR circuit. (The previous Saturday night he won the All Star Race, which is the shortest NASCAR race of the year)
At the end of the day, after nearly 700 laps of racing, on two continents, at three different race tracks, in front of more than 600,000 fans at the venues and millions more in front of televisions around the world, it was over.
One hundred drivers began the day dreaming of success. Only three men stood in victory lane when the day was done. All three of them are former champions of their respective organization. All three of them will remember this day as one of their best. For the other 97, their dreams will have to wait another year.
But for those who sat through it all, it was the greatest day in motorsports. A day when nothing else mattered but drinking in the elixir of speed and the occasional adult beverage. It was a day for putting aside everything else but the sights, sounds, color, pageantry, and fury of big time auto racing. It was a great day to be a race fan!
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