It was the biggest day in motorsports, starting with the streets of Monaco, where they have been racing since 1929. Then, to Indianapolis, where they have been logging 500 miles this time of year since 1911. Finally, the long way home, the World 600 at Charlotte for the boys and girl with fenders.
Overseas, Nico Rosberg claimed the prize for the third straight year. It helps when it is handed to you. During a late caution, the dominant car of Lewis Hamilton was called in for fresh tires. He had thought Rosberg and those immediately behind him had done the same. They had not. Nice call, team. Thanks a bunch. Surprise, surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say.
Gomer’s creator, actor Jim Nabors, performed “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the final time last year, but Juan Pablo Montoya was back in Indianapolis. An early mishap cost the former NASCAR performer what passes for a rear fender on his open wheeled car, forcing him back to 30th. That set the stage for his charge through the pack. With just three laps to go, he made his pass for the lead and claimed the crown he first won back in 2000.
They have been racing 600 miles at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend since 1960, the longest NASCAR event of the season. Martin Truex Jr. would have been the story, had he won after leading 131 laps. He did not. Kurt Busch led the way for 118, but no suds for him, either. In fact, five other drivers led more than Carl Edwards, but it was the man from Missouri doing the back flip in the end as he led the final 21 to take his first of the season, 24th of his Cup career. It might still be a bit premature, but what the heck. Welcome to the Chase, Mr. Edwards.
Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Bruton Smith. The 88-year old owner of the Charlotte track, along with seven others on the circuit, will be inducted as part of the class of 2016. Joining him will be two-time champ Terry Labonte, the legendary Curtis Turner, six-time Modified king Jerry Cook, and 1970 Cup champion Bobby Isaac.
Landon Cassill was still running at the end of the race in Charlotte. For another hour, 41 minutes, and 49 seconds, he continued to run the 14 miles between the track and the Hall of Fame. This time, the only rubber on the road was on his sneakers. This sounds like something my sons might do. I, on the other hand, am much too smart…and fat…and old…for that.
If you want to win the Indianapolis 500, spend some time in NASCAR. Montoya won his second after 278 races in Cup and the XFINITY series over parts of the previous nine seasons. His Indy lead engineer, Brian Campe, was on the box as a crew chief for 22 Nationwide races in 2009, including seven for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Not a bad apprenticeship.
Jeff Gordon was at Indianapolis, drove the pace car before returning to North Carolina. After getting out of the car, he will head to the broadcast booth to join Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip at FOX next season. I think they might be replacing the wrong guy, but maybe that is just me.
So, what is next? The Monster Mile in Dover is slated for this Sunday, where everybody who has won there the past nine events also has claimed a Cup title along the way. In fact, over the past six years, the only non-champion to take the checkered flag there was Kyle Busch. Not a bad pick, come to think of it.