The Final Word – A day of three iconic races, and the return of an iconic 3 to Victory Lane

One day, three iconic events for racing fans. All you needed was a fine alarm clock or, better still, a fine recording device.

It all began early Sunday morning along the coast of Monte Carlo and the Monaco Grand Prix. I am not a big fan of driving fast and little passing, but Monaco is a different breed. Fabulous architecture and big expensive craft that fill the marina are the background for a street race that has the competitors driving just a bit above the recommended speed limit for you and me. Simply put, they go fast on a road not built to go fast, be it alone or among 20 other speed demons.

You get the idea that concentration might be a real attribute. Gazing at a beautiful building or Leo DiCaprio trying to save the planet on one of those monstrous sized yachts might not be helpful in winning. Sebastian Vettel won it for Ferrari this weekend, and was happy about it. Teammate Kimi Räikkönen was second and he did not appear happy at all. When you start on the pole, you expect to win, but his day went to the pits in the pits. As for Lewis Hamilton, he started 12th and finished seventh. Did I not mention that passing was at a premium?

From the land of champagne the day took us next to the land of milk and the Indianapolis 500. Indy was built for speed, though I am not sure they had these kind of speeds in mind back in 1909 when they opened the facility. Fernando Alonzo has a win at Monaco, along with 31 other Formula One victories and a pair of championships. On Sunday, he was an Indianapolis rookie. While Alonzo and Andretti teammate, last year’s winner Alexander Rossi, swapped the lead between them, pole winner Scott Dixon made it just past the quarter mark when he went to pieces. Jay Howard bounced off the wall right into Dixon’s path, and the ride he went on would make most of us truly appreciate the soft safe confines of our sofa. Then, he stepped out of the wreckage and walked away. Amazing.

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It was riveting action from the Midwest. It was a great day for Andretti’s boys, at least for a time. A pit problem cost Rossi and sent him back in the pack to stay. A blown engine removed Ryan Hunter-Reay from the equation. Near the end, it was Alonzo’s turn to clear away the mosquitoes. That left only Takuma Sato from the Andretti stable in contention, but that was all they needed. Sato beat out three-time champ Hélio Castroneves to give Andretti Autosport its second straight, third in four years, and fifth overall Indianapolis 500 victory. Sato becomes the first Japanese driver to win the classic in a race that was must-see television from start to finish.

Then it was time to move on to NASCAR’s endurance test, Charlotte’s World 600. Not that everyone was busy all night, as an Earnhardt changed the course of this one. The Intimidator’s grandson, Jeffrey, blew up, tossing a large metal part onto the track. That collected Chase Elliott, who caught fire and slowed down to nothing. That was enough to cause Brad Keselowski to skid in at high speed to pile drive Elliott, and with that, we had three less cars to worry about. We did not have to worry about the weather, we were told. A storm was going to pass to the north of the track. They must have moved the track, because it poured during that second stage and put a red flag to proceedings for 100 minutes. It rained hard. It rained long. For a moment, I thought the action had returned to Europe for the Venetian gondola races. Honestly, if you had been thinking about mowing the lawn, you were in luck. You had the time to do so.

Happily, the clouds parted and the track dried. Not so happily, Trevor Bayne broke an axle leaving the pits, that cost him five laps. Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne had a rear end failure, tagging the wall to end his day. As for Kyle Larson, he tagged the wall which moved things in his right front. It later gave up the ghost, went into the pearly outside fence, and his car was bound for automotive heaven. All this, and still 150 miles to go.

As they counted down the final laps, it was fuel strategy versus performance. Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon looked to win it on stretching their petrol. Martin Truex Jr., who had been the best car on the night, along with Kyle Busch, were hoping their better entries would equate into victory. With 20 miles left, we still did not know how this would play out.

With three miles to go, Johnson ran dry. Dillon had the lead. Busch got by Truex but on this day time ran out before the fuel did. Dillon took his grandfather’s team to Victory Lane. For Richard Childress, it marked the first win for his grandson. It also marked the first for the No. 3 since his friend, Dale Earnhardt, won for him at Talladega back on October 15, 2000.

A great day for auto racing. A great way to end it.

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