This Week In Motorsports
Motorsports News by David Vodden
On May 26th the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will, once again, enter the history books as America’s premier single-day motorsports event. The historic race involves two-hundred laps around a somewhat square, 2.5-mile course in the great Hoosier state of Indiana. In the 102 previous editions of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” drivers have become legends. Many drivers have died seeking the victory. Winning makes you famous. Around the world, motorsports leaders and fans view this event with awe calling it a one-of-a-kind auto race.
The Indianapolis 500 began in 1911, two years after the track opened with a motorcycle event on a gravel/oiled racing surface. Ray Haroun won. In 2017, Auburn resident Alexander Rossi won the 100th ruining of the race as a rookie. Legends, including: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr, and Rick Mears, have won the race four times. Helio Castroneves will race this May seeking to join this elite group of drivers. Thirty-six cars have been entered this year. Thirty-three will take the green flag. Past winners in this year’s race include, Castroneves, Rossi, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, and Will Power. There will be seven rookies seeking fame. They are, Marcus Ericsson; Santino Ferrucci; Ben Hanley; Colton Herta; Jordan King; Patricio O’Ward; and Felix Rosenqvist. Perhaps more than anything else, the magnitude of this year’s event is validated by the entry of two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonzo of Spain. Alonzo states, emphatically, that the Indy 500 is recognized around the globe as the greatest race in the world. He says that the Indy 500 is far more dangerous than any race he has run but adds that winning this race is worth the risks in exchange for the glory and place in history that it affords. Roger Penske has won the 500-miler seventeen times as a car owner. This far eclipses any other in this category. There will be two engines used in the competition, Chevrolet and Honda. Amazingly the Offenhauser engine still holds the record for the most wins under the hood. After decades with ABC TV, the race will be hosted this year by NBC on their network channel. The thrill of victory will be compelling while the unquestioned danger will appeal to the need that we all have to experience such things vicariously. Who will win? I do not know but I do know that winning is everything. As Al Unser Jr. said so emotionally in victory circle with tears rolling down his cheeks following his first win, “You just don’t know what Indy means. You just don’t know!” If you are reading this then you are aware of the Indianapolis 500. You have gotten goose bumps hearing the singing of “Back home again in Indiana.” And you have marveled at the magnitude of 300,000 plus fans watching from the stands and infield as thirty-three colorful, open-wheel race cars parade, three-abreast, around the narrow battlefield with drivers anticipating, with wide eyes and clenched fists, what this race will bring for them and what it will add to the history of American auto racing. If you can, go see it in person. It is not a television product. It is so much more meaningful when you see, hear, and feel all that is the Indy 500. In these changing times it is not obvious just how important this race truly is.
NASCAR had a great race in Kansas last weekend as Brad Keselowski out-drove the competition in a late race restart to win for the third time this year. Cars were everywhere. Drivers dodged and blocked and swerved all around the course and especially on restarts. I could not help but wonder when they would all crash into a heap. They did not. Alex Bowman finished second for the third time in as many races with Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, and Clint Boyer completing the top five. Approaching the checkered flag, Boyer was blocked over and over by Jones which caused Boyer, the Kansas native, to seek Jones out after the race to tell him that he would crash him next time. There were seven Chevys, two Fords and one Toyota in the top ten.
Ross Chastain won the companion Gander RV truck race after Stewart Friesen ran out of gas with two laps to go. Ben Rhodes followed with Todd Gilliland, Austin Hill and Brandon Jones completing the top five. Chastain remains a special story in the unfolding drama that is the NASCAR racing program. He has run every race in all three classes since the year began. Lucky guy!
Perhaps the best race of the weekend was the Indy Car Grand Prix held on the infield track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Simon Pagenaud demonstrated exceptional driving skill and overtook race leader Scott Dixon with two laps to go to win in his Penske Chevrolet. It was pure driving that resulted in the win complicated by rain and wet track conditions that made the contest for victory that much more exciting. This is what is supposed to happen in auto racing! Dixon held on for second in his Chip Ganassi Honda while Jack Harvey ran third.
Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix by beating teammate Valtteri Bottas to the first turn at the drop of the green lights. This was the finishing order for the first two spots. Sebastian Vettel should have gotten third but he was passed by Max Verstappen and finished fourth. This was not a good race compared to NASCAR and Indy cars this weekend.
This weekend plan to attend the LeMons race at Thunderhill on both Saturday and Sunday. I have said this, many times, this race is a hoot! You have to see it. It is fun, funny and crazy. Need I say more? Gates open at 8am both days and there is a $30 admission per person price. Call for more information. 934-5588 Ext 107.