It’s Sunday on Memorial Day Weekend, otherwise known as one of the most compelling Motorsports days of the year. This is a day when Hollywood often intersects with history as the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 are known for unpredictability and spectacular finishes.
It is in the spirit of friendly wagering that my highly knowledgeable RaceChaser colleague Joel Sebastianelli decided to go head-to-head in a three-round fight to the finish to determine bragging rights for the year. We thought we’d make it public, because we can. We’ve done this on The Tom Baker Show in the past but since we’re not on radio right now, we moved it to the action-packed surroundings of our new RaceChaser website!
We always bet dinner and I think I owe Joel two, having not settled my debt from the past two years’ beatings.
I aim to get one of them back this year, though!
Feel free to comment with your own picks but I caution you – be G-rated with no bashing if you want your pick posted – we’re all about family-friendliness here!
Joel’s also a media expert in Boxing, so, in the immortal words of the legendary Boxing referee (and court Judge!) Mills Lane – “Let’s get it on!”
For the second straight week, the Silver Arrows have shut out the front row of the Formula One grid, with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton leading the field into Sainte Devote when the lights go out. Mercedes AMG Petronas has placed a car on the pole for four straight weeks, but has yet to win a race due to a failure to properly manage the rapidly degrading Pirelli tire compounds. The rear tires wears away so rapidly due to the high camber angle on the W04 chassis that Mercedes has been forced to pit for new tires once more per race than anyone else in the field.
But at notoriously tough passing circuit where the 8 of the last 9 winners have come from pole, will the Mercedes be able to hang on? With dry weather expected, tire wear will bite the team yet again. Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull waits in the wings, and with a proven track record for Infiniti Red Bull Racing at Monaco, the triple world champion will be the first to strike—and he seldom makes mistakes.
49 of the last 59 Monaco Grand Prix winners have come from third position or higher on the grid. The streak will continue, with Vettel notching his second sip of champagne on the Principality podium.
TOM FIRES BACK: Picking Sebastian Vettel to win a F1 race is like picking the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship. Joel went a whole inch and a half out on the limb for this one, which since I’m scared to climb trees is plenty far enough for me as well. I will agree with Joel and take Vettel to win this one handily.
As time passes, sports drastically change and modernize, with most changes occurring for the benefit and excitement of the sport. This is especially true at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the racing level has reached unparalleled parity in the Indianapolis 500. Despite the resurgence in competitiveness, the month of May has been topped by Chevrolet and the top two gold bow-tie boasting teams: Andretti Autosport and Team Penske.
The oval makes up for its shape with plenty of twists and turns in plot, frequently surprising but typically rewarding experience over raw youth. Nobody has a better mix of experience and success at Indianapolis than Helio Castroneves. The charismatic Brazilian has been near the top of the time sheets all month, and already has three victories at the Speedway. Helio would hardly be an upset pick, but he may have even more help on his side, historically speaking. The winner of the Carb Day Pit Stop Competition has won the Indianapolis 500 six times—Helio won on Friday for the sixth time in his career, and went on to sweep the weekend festivities in 2002 and 2009.
Move over A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears. The “Four-Timers Fraternity” will initiate a fourth member on Sunday. I am going with Helio.
TOM FIRES BACK: Once again Joel plays it safe with his pick, statistically speaking. I don’t believe Helio will even factor into the podium at the end of this race. I do think one of his teammates will though, and that’s A.J. Allmendinger. A.J. has quietly had a cool and consistent month as he makes his return to Indy cars, and I believe the time he’s spent in NASCAR developing the mindset of “slow and steady wins the race” will pay off for him on this day.
But I am not picking him to win. My “got milk” award goes to none other than Marco Andretti, who should have won this race in his rookie year but fell a tad short. Marco also has said he’s come to understand the importance of taking care of the equipment and I believe this will be the year he puts it together and takes home top honors with Allmendinger somewhere in the top three.
Coca Cola 600:
While qualifying at the Coca-Cola 600 is not nearly as important as on the streets of Monaco or even Indianapolis, qualifying is always an indicator of a fast car. If not for Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne would likely have been victorious in Las Vegas and also in Kansas, when the No. 20 was busted in post-race inspection but was credited with winning the race nonetheless. Consistency has been an issue for the Hendrick Motorsports driver at times this year, but he led the second practice session and starts sixth.
Kahne has shown flashes of brilliance at Charlotte in the past, winning the race in 2006, 2008, and 2012. Only Darrell Waltrip has won more than three Coca-Cola 600s (1978, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1989), but I suspect Helio Castroneves won’t be the only driver joining a select group of four-time race winners this weekend.
TOM FIRES BACK: Joel obviously wasn’t in a poker kind of mood when he wrote this because he went “low risk” on all of his picks. Kahne is a safe pick and a smart one. Hendrick Motorsports loves Charlotte and so does Kasey. This is not a race that generally produces upset winners but for some reason this year I’m feeling like it will.
I know Kurt Busch in the Furniture Row Chevrolet qualified second fastest but does anyone really consider him a favorite to win NASCAR’s longest race competing against the multi-car teams? Well, I do! This guy drives every lap like his hair is on fire so the only drawback may be that he drives the wheels right off the car and doesn’t have enough to challenge at the finish. If he can save his best for last and be in contention for the final run, he’ll do what it takes to get his first win for the Denver-based team.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone! We hope you enjoy this “Power Trio” of races from across the globe and take some time today to remember those who have given their lives (and continue to) in service to our nation and our freedom!
Let’s go racing!
PHOTO CREDIT: F1Fanatic.co.uk