Murto: Racing’s biggest weekend delivers
Memorial Day has come and gone, and it feels like racing’s biggest weekend of the year is over too soon.
Sunday’s racing events started with the Grand Prix of Monaco, Formula One’s premier event.
Though there’s not much competition up front with Mercedes dominating the top of the podium, the rivalry between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg promises to be entertaining. Rosberg won Monaco — his second win of the year — and ended Hamilton’s win streak at four. Rosberg also grabbed the point lead away from Hamilton. It’s expected that when F1 gets to Canada the two rivals will be in another time zone compared to the rest of the field, but as their annoyance with each other increases we may be in store for a rivalry similar to the legendary feud between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Following the wonderful TV coverage of Monaco it was on to Indy, where Kurt Busch faced his first challenge of the day as he attempted to run both Indy and Charlotte.
Amazingly, the Indy 500 went 150 laps of 200 before the first caution period. The previous record was 66 laps set in 1976. Despite the long green run the lead pack remained tight and the racing was fierce. In the end, Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American driver to win the race since Sam Hornish in 2006. Juan Pablo Montoya finished fifth in his return to Indy, and Busch did a fantastic job to finish sixth.
The television coverage of the race could have been better. After making a big deal of the long green run, announcers never came back to say exactly on what lap the first caution occurred; that information was gathered on-line. And at the end of the race they never gave a full-field rundown, not even an unofficial rundown of anything but the top 10. That’s disgraceful; NBC does a much better job covering Indycar.
The radio broadcast of the race wasn’t any better. Many complained about the lack of radio coverage of anything outside the top five. And since half the listeners were NASCAR fans interested in Kurt Busch’s performance, his progress throughout the day could have been followed on the radio much better.
Fox Sports, on the other hand, did a wonderful job covering the 600-mile NASCAR race at Charlotte. They were quick with stats and results. At the end of the endurance race, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson grabbed his first win of 2014, the 67th of his career and one that places him eighth on the all-time win list.
Johnson has eight wins at Dover, the next stop on the schedule. But the last time a driver won the 600 and backed it up by winning Dover the following week was 1993 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. pulled it off.
Between Indy and Charlotte, many race fans got on the Internet at www.fanschoice.tv to watch AMA Grand National flat track motorcycle racing from the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Now a 25-mile Expert class feature, from 1937 through ’53 the race was a 50-mile event, and so much importance was placed on the Springfield Mile that the winner of the race those years was declared the national champion.
The 2014 Grand National Expert race was a real nail biter, won by Kawasaki rider Bryan Smith with Kenny Coolbeth and Jared Mees on his heels and Jake Johnson and Brad Baker following. In the Pro Twins division, 19-year-old Jarod Vanderkooi dominated on his Kawasaki to win in his first ever professional start. The fanschoice.tv coverage was outstanding.
AMA Grand National motorcycles will be at Hagerstown Speedway on the half-mile for the 33rd Annual Hub City Classic on July 5. Visit www.hagerstownspeedway.com for information. And be sure to mark Aug. 23 on your calendar, as that’s the day the flat track series faces their toughest challenge all year on the Virginia Mega Mile at Colonial Downs, just East of Richmond off I-64. The 1.25-mile track is the largest the series competes on all year, and there are few things as exciting as watching the Grand National riders handlebar to handlebar at 140 mph. Visit www.colonialdowns.com for information.
On June 7 motocross racing returns to Shenandoah Speedway, and June 14 the Virginia Sprint Series and Late Models are featured on the paved oval. Shenandoah-speedway.com provides information about both facilities.
And if you’re still looking for a racing fix after the busy Memorial Day weekend, don’t forget that this Saturday night the Super Late Models headline a six-division program at Winchester Speedway.
Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.