An FAQ To The Biggest Day In Racing
Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and a time to display our respect and gratitude for the ones who literally gave it their all for our country, making it one of most anticipated sequences on the American calendar. For the sport of auto racing, the Sunday of MDW may be the most anticipated day of all.
Sunday plays host to a trio of events on different levels of elite auto racing, each taking part in one of the biggest events their respective competitions have to offer. Overseas, the day gets off to an early start with the Monaco Grand Prix, a Formula 1 event which will host its 74th annual running. On a more local level, the famed Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will play host to, what else, the Indianapolis 500, the premiere event of the Indy Car circuit. The festivities conclude at night, as NASCAR will return to its hub of Charlotte, NC for the Coca-Cola 600. Here's what you need to know for this delicious sandwich...or perhaps donut?...of auto racing.
What's the significance of each event?
Each event has been an integral part of each circuit's history. The Monaco Grand Prix's origins, for example, date all the way back to 1929. Ironically, there is no set track for the race, which operates as a street circuit, set up in the street of Monte Carlo. Labeled as "an exceptional circuit of glamour and prestige" by Prince Rainier, the famed late Prince of Monaco himself, the race hosts celebrities of international fame, with the fashion police locked and loaded. So basically, you can think of Monaco as the Kentucky Derby if it took place in the Fast and the Furious franchise.
As for the Indy 500, you can automatically assume that this race is just a little important considering the entire circuit is named after the track. This year's event is extra special, as this will mark the 100th anniversary of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing". By capacity, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sports facility in the world, and every seat will be filled for Sunday's race.
As for the Coca-Cola 600, this is the longest race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, tallying 600 miles. Held in the city of NASCAR's headquarter, Charlotte, the race has typically been run on Memorial Day Weekend, and follows NASCAR's All-Star weekend, which is also traditionally run in Charlotte.
What Do All Those Flags Mean?
Want to sound smart at any potential race party you may find yourself at? Familiarize yourself with the following flags
Green-Rather self explanatory....put that pedal to the medal, because it's time to go racing!!!
Yellow-An incident on the track has necessitated racing to cease, putting the cars in line behind the pace car while the incident is dealt with. Common yellow occurrences are wrecks and/or debris on the track.
Red-An on-track incident is so severe, the cars are parked, either on the track or pit road, while further clean up can be completed.
Black-Often used as a penalty flag, a driver assessed the black flag must report to pit road. Common black flag appearances often including speeding on pit road and other pit violations. If a driver ignores the black flag, the black/white X flag (often used in IndyCar and NASCAR) will be displayed, informing the driver that his or her laps are no longer being scored. F1 events use a black and white flag for this penalty.
Blue-This signifies to lapped cars, or about to be lapped cars, that faster cars are approaching, and they should move out of the way. NASCAR and IndyCar add a yellow strip to this flag.
White-Hurry up everyone...it's the final lap! At least in NASCAR and IndyCar, that is. In F1, this flag is used to indicate a slow car on the track, usually due to a mechanical issue.
Checkered-The leader has crossed the finish line, and the race is over.
Who Are the Names I Should Know?
It would take forever to list every single name you should keep an eye on today, so I'll give you one from each event...
Lewis Hamilton-Formula 1 fans know all about Hamilton, and we're not talking about the Broadway show. Owner of several F1 records, Hamilton won the 2008 edition of the event. He started last year's race in 1st, and managed to earn a podium spot with a 3rd place finish, but he'd love to end his long drought in Monaco.
Juan Pablo Montoya-Montoya is a driver who has competed in all three of today's events at some point in time. He has won the Indy 500 twice, including a victory last year. He was also victorious in Monaco in 2003, so let's just say that Memorial Day Sunday is always a day he has circled on his calendar. He's currently 3rd in the Indy standings.
Jimmie Johnson-Ironically, Charlotte Motor Speedway used to be sponsored by Lowe's the sponsor of Johnson, who has dominated the track. The six-time champion has won a record 7 times in Charlotte, and owns track records for most laps led as well.
Has Anyone Tried To Run Two Events?
Monaco's distance makes it extremely difficult to pull off a tripleheader, but many drivers have attempted the "Memorial Day 1100", racing in both the Indy and Charlotte races, traveling from the Hoosier State to NC via helicopter immediately after the checkered flag flies. The most successful outing was in 2001, when Tony Stewart completed all 1,100 miles of racing. He came in 6th in Indy, and then tallied a 3rd in Charlotte. The most recent attempt by a driver was by Kurt Busch in 2014. He finished 6th in the 500, but got caught up in a wreck in the latter event, finishing 40th. Last year, Performance Racing Network radio host Doug Rice covered both events, becoming the first reporter to do so.
Why Does the Indy 500 Winner Drink Milk?
One of the most time honored traditions in sports, the legend of Indy 500 milk has become so great, the glass bottle has its own security. The tradition unofficially began in 1933, when Louis Meyer, after winning a grueling 5 hour event, acted on advice of his mother and requested buttermilk to drink after completing the victory (yes, folks, this was B.G....before Gatorade). When Meyer repeated the request when he won again in 1936, the Milk Foundation saw the marketing potential and the tradition began to catch on. While there was a brief period from 1947-55 where the winner would instead be offered a silver cup of cold water from track president/former driver Wilbur Shaw, the milk companies began slapping monetary incentives to the milk drinking, and the tradition has carried on ever since. So, one of the best traditions in sports is made possible through one of the worst....blatant advertising!!!
When is each race on and can I live stream it?
Each race will be broadcast live on TV, as well as it's respective network's streaming service....
Get up early for Monaco's coverage, which commences at 7 AM EST on NBC, with coverage also available on the NBC Sports Live Extra app.
Grab a hot dog in between races, as coverage of the Indy 500 will go down at 11 AM EST, with the race slated to go down one hour later. ABC will broadcast the event, though live streaming will take place via the WatchESPN app.
Finally, you'll have some time to let your family know you're still alive, as the Coke 600 is expected to get underway at 6 PM EST. The race will be broadcast on Fox, and will stream on the Fox Sports Go app.
Any further questions? Rev your engines and sound off in the comments!
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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