Saturday, May 24, 2014

Guide to Memorial Day Weekend Racing: Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600

At Charlotte Motor Speedway, flags fly to commemorate Memorial Day.
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs  
Memorial Day weekend means different things to different people. Gratitude for those who served our country. Beaches. Backyards. Barbecue. But in the world of motorsports, the last Sunday in May is the closest thing to a high holy day as it gets.

For NASCAR fans, it's the longest race of the year, one of the crown jewels of the sport, the Coca Cola 600. Formerly known as the World 600, it's a race that challenges the endurance of both man and machine. It's the marathon of stock car racing.

Outside the world of NASCAR, the day is held in reverence for the running of two of the most famous races in the world: the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. From the hairpin turns of the streets of Monte Carlo to the yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's a global celebration of speed and skill.

For this one day, NASCAR Nation steps outside the comfort zone of fenders and roll cages to watch the best of open-wheel racing. To truly appreciate the spectacle, though, you'll need to know some background. Skirts and Scuffs has you covered. Here's a breakdown of each race, with the starting grids.

Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco   

Points leader Lewis Hamilton on the Circuit de Monaco
©2014 MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team 
NBC Pre-race coverage 7:30 a.m ET, Green flag 8 a.m. ET 
Circuit de Monaco, Monaco
78 laps on a 3.340-kilometer street course (260.5 kilometers)

Lewis Hamilton started from the pole for three of his four wins thus far in the 2014 season, and aimed to do so again during qualifying on Saturday, but his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg thwarted his efforts. Rosberg laid down the fastest lap then had a problem that resulted in him going onto the escape road, which brought out a caution, effectively ending the session. Hamilton leads Rosberg by three points in the F1 championship standings, and while this is only the sixth of 19 grands prix, the tension between the teammates is palpable.

Other drivers to watch: Four-time series champion Sebastian Vettel, the 2011 race winner, and Fernando Alonso, two-time series champ and two-time winner at Monaco.

Qualifying results for this race:

RankCar No. DriverAbbreviationTeam Speed (km/hr)
16  Nico RosbergROSMercedes158.233  
244  Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes158.111  
33  Daniel RicciardoRICRed Bull Racing157.415  
41  Sebastian VettelVETRed Bull Racing157.080  
514  Fernando AlonsoALOFerrari156.795  
67  Kimi RaikkonenRAIForce India155.371  
725  Jean-Eric VergneVERToro Rosso 155.068  
820  Kevin MagnussenMAGMcLaren155.038  
926  Daniil KvyatKVYToro Rosso 153.976  
1011  Sergio PerezPERForce India153.510  
1127  Nico HulkenbergHULForce India154.459  
1222  Jenson ButtonBUTMcLaren154.178  
1377  Valtteri BottasBOTWilliams153.992  
148  Romain GrosjeanGROLotus153.767  
1513  Pastor MaldonadoMALLotus153.453  
1619  Felipe MassaMASWilliams-----  
1721  Esteban GutierrezGUTSauber152.703  
1899  Adrian SutilSUTSauber152.695  
1917  Jules BianchiBIAMarussia151.566  
204  Max ChiltonCHIMarussia150.435  
2110  Kamui KobayashiKOBCaterham150.051  
229  Marcus EricssonERICaterham147.115  

Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500

Kurt Busch leaving pit lane for his qualifying attempt.
Credit: Walter Kuhn, Verizon IndyCar
ABC Prerace coverage 11 a.m. ET, Green flag  12:12 p.m. ET
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN
200 laps on a 2.5-mile paved track (500.0 miles)

For most NASCAR fans, the main storyline for the Indianapolis 500 revolves around Kurt Busch's attempt at running both the 500 and NASCAR's Coke 600 in the "double." His IndyCar ride is from Andretti Autosports, his NASCAR gig is for 1997 IRL Champ Tony Stewart, who tried five times to win the Borg Warner trophy, including two doubles of his own. Busch starts the 500 in 12th, outside the fourth row.

That fourth row is oddly interrelated. Immediately to Busch's left, in 11th, Scott Dixon makes his twelfth start at the Brickyard. The New Zealander, known as Dixie, won the 2008 Indy 500 and finished second in 2007 and 2012. Dixon scored the IndyCar Championship for Target Chip Ganassi in 2008 and 2013.

On the inside of the row, in P10, sits Juan Pablo Montoya. JPM won the 2000 Indy 500 for Target Chip Ganassi and he returns to the Brickyard in an open-wheel car after spending the last seven years driving stock cars. With the exception of his five-and-a-half seasons in F1, Montoya drove exclusively for Ganassi, but his return to open wheel is for Team Penske, for whom Kurt Busch drove stock cars between 2006-2008.
Side note: Montoya earned more than three times as much for his 39th-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500 ($318,693) than he's earned so far this season in four IndyCar starts ($98,236.)

Watch for Row Four to try to move up fast.

But keep an eye on Helio Castroneves, who wants to win for the fourth time, and his Team Penske teammate Will Power who's hungry for his first Brickyard win.

Qualifying results for this race:
120  Ed CarpenterEd Carpenter Racing231.067  
227  James HinchcliffeAndretti Autosport230.839  
312  Will PowerTeam Penske230.697  
43  Helio CastronevesTeam Penske230.649  
577  Simon PagenaudSchmidt Peterson Motorsports230.614  
625  Marco AndrettiAndretti Autosport230.544  
734  Carlos MunozAndretti Autosport230.146  
867  Josef NewgardenSarah Fisher Hartman Racing229.893  
921  J.R. HildebrandEd Carpenter Racing228.726  
102  Juan Pablo MontoyaTeam Penske231.007  
119  Scott DixonTarget Chip Ganassi230.928  
1226  Kurt BuschAndretti Autosport230.782  
1398  Jack HawksworthBBA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian230.506  
1419  Justin WilsonDale Coyne Racing230.256  
157  Mikhail AleshinSchmidt Peterson Motorsports230.049  
1610  Tony KanaanTarget Chip Ganassi229.922  
1711  Sebastien BourdaisKV SH Racing229.847  
1816  Oriol ServiaRahal Letterman Laningan Racing229.752  
1928  Ryan Hunter-ReayAndretti Autosport229.719  
2015  Graham RahalRahal Letterman Laningan Racing229.628  
2118  Carlos HuertasDale Coyne Racing229.251  
2263  Pippa MannDale Coyne Racing229.223  
2314  Takuma SatoAJ Foyt Enterprises229.201  
2468  Alex TaglianiSarah Fisher Hartman Racing229.148  
256  Townsend BellKV SH Racing229.009  
2683  Charlie KimballNovo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing228.953  
275  Jacques VilleneuveSchmidt Peterson Motorsports228.949  
2833  James DavisonKV Racing Technology228.865  
2941  Martin PlowmanAJ Foyt Enterprises228.814  
308  Ryan BriscoeNTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing228.713  
3122  Sage KaramDeyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing228.436  
3217  Sebastian SaavedraKV AFS Racing228.088  
3391  Buddy LazierLazier Partners Racing, Inc. 227.920  

NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600

Jimmie Johnson on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
FOX Pre-race coverage, 5:30 p.m. ET,
Green flag: 6:16 p.m. ET
Charlotte Motor Speedway,
Concord, NC
400 laps on a 1.5-mile paved track (600.0 miles)

Kurt Busch's drama continues at Charlotte Motor Speedway after he's completed a full day's work in Indianapolis. He's got Parker Kligerman on standby in case the timing doesn't work out but since The Outlaw sits 28th in points, he'd like to avoid having Kligerman start the race for him, and having Kligerman finish the race would be almost as bad.

As compelling a storyline as "The Double" is, just as at Indy, it's not the only story.

Jimmie Johnson scored his first pole of the season and hopes to notch his first win of the season at the track formerly known as "Jimmie's House." Johnson's been on the pole for the 600 twice before and won from it once.
Johnson's Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon only ran 11 laps of practice Saturday because of debilitating back spasms. Gordon has Regan Smith ready to climb in the No. 24 if necessary. While Gordon, who has the longest streak of consecutive starts of all active drivers,  may turn the car over to Smith after starting the race, it would have to be a dire situation for the three-time 600 winner not to take the green flag.

Other points of interest:

Brad Keselowski starts from the front row for the seventh time in 12 races.
Danica Patrick rolls off fourth, her second-best Cup start and only her fifth from the top ten. Third-fastest in final practice, she hopes to follow up her seventh-place Kansas finish with an even better one in the 600.
Kyle Busch was fastest in final practice but will start in the back of the field because he crashed his primary car in that practice.

Qualifying results for this race:

Car #DriverSponsorBest Speed
148Jimmie JohnsonLowe's Patriotic194.911
22Brad KeselowskiMiller Lite194.567
35Kasey KahneFarmers Insurance 193.618
410Danica PatrickGoDaddy193.334
515Clint BowyerCherry 5-Hour ENERGY  193.244
611Denny HamlinFedEx Office193.119
718Kyle BuschM&M's193.092
822Joey LoganoPennzoil Platinum192.472
99Marcos AmbroseTwisted Tea191.673
1088Dale Earnhardt JrNational Guard/Superman191.272
114Kevin HarvickBudweiser Folds of Honor193.959
1220Matt KensethHome Depot Husky192.898
1343Aric AlmirolaUnited States Air Force192.692
1421Trevor BayneMotorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & AutoCtr192.486
1578Martin Truex JrFurniture Row192.438
1655Brian VickersAaron's Dream Machine192.027
1751Justin AllgaierHendrickcars.com191.945
1814Tony StewartBass Pro Shops-Mobil 1 Chevrolet191.925
1933Brian ScottShore Lodge191.884
2047AJ AllmendingerBush Beans191.829
2127Paul MenardSerta / Menards191.707
2299Carl EdwardsFastenal189.98
2317Ricky Stenhouse JrFastenal189.208
2416Greg BiffleFastenal184.344
2542Kyle LarsonTarget190.84
261Jamie McMurrayCESSNA190.255
2724Jeff GordonDrive to End Hunger189.673
2841Kurt BuschHaas Automation Made in America189.553
2923Alex BowmanDr. Pepper Toyota Camry189.514
3095Michael McDowellJPO Absorbents189.148
3126Cole WhittSpeed Stick Toyota Camry189.115
323Austin DillonCheerios189.062
3338David GillilandLove's Travel Stops188.732
3413Casey MearsNo. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS188.534
3534David RaganTaco Bell188.455
3683Ryan TruexBurger King Toyota188.422
3798Josh WisePhil Parsons Racing188.258
3866Joe NemechekTestoril187.963
397Michael AnnettPilot Flying J Chevrolet187.806
4040Landon CassillHillman Racing187.559
4136Reed SorensonTBA187.207
4231Ryan NewmanQuicken Loans186.89
4332Blake KochSupportMilitary.org185.931