Craig Murto: Biggest race day proved a thrill


The biggest day in motorsports worldwide certainly didn’t disappoint.

Sunday’s activities started with coffee and the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco.

The race followed this season’s script for the most part, as Lewis Hamilton drove his Mercedes to a big lead over teammate Nico Rosberg. But that all changed after Max Verstappen crashed while attempting to pass Romain Grosjean late in the race.

There’s something about safety cars and F1. We take caution periods for granted in this country, but F1 races can’t seem to have a safety car period without somebody messing something up. They really need to see how NASCAR and IndyCar do things and adopt those procedures as their own.

Last year in an F1 race a safety car picked up the wrong car on track and robbed Jenson Button of a good finish. This year Mercedes robbed Hamilton, their own driver, by pitting him and allowing Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel to go on by.

It was amazing to watch the best F1 team make the most amateurish mistake. But it made for an exciting, controversial start of the day.

Next up was the Indy 500. Only one word describes this year’s 99th running: Awesome.

There were a few accidents, but none of the cars sailed through the air as predicted following practice crashes all week long. Nobody dominated the race entirely, though Scott Dixon appeared to have the car to beat. There were plenty of passes and lead changes all day, and in the end Juan Pablo Montoya proved he’s still a world class driver as he dug deep and made the moves to win, taking the lead with two laps remaining. Indy was by far the best automobile race of the day.

Waiting for NASCAR coverage from Charlotte to start left time to get on the computer, go to, and watch the live coverage of the AMA flat track motorcycle racing from the Springfield (Ill.) mile.

The motorcycles didn’t disappoint, as Jared Mees and Bryan Smith swapped the lead twice at 140 mph on the final lap. Smith eventually brought his Kawasaki home first with a slingshot pass down the front stretch. Be sure to check, as all national flat track events will be streamed live.

Following a short break for barbeque, it was time for the 600-mile endurance race at Charlotte.

The NASCAR drivers provided some good racing, but the 600 really is an endurance event. There were enough cautions to break things up a bit and keep it interesting; restarts were especially frantic as drivers tried to get all they could. As often happens during the 600, it came down to fuel strategy. Though he didn’t have the fastest car, Carl Edwards had the winning strategy and grabbed his first win since joining Joe Gibbs Racing.

Following the 600 at Charlotte, couch potatoes with the desire for more could tune in for same-day coverage of the NHRA Kansas Nationals.

Funny Car racer Jack Beckman finished off a record-setting weekend of racing at Heartland Park Topeka by claiming victory over John Force.

Beckman used a pair of 3.9-second runs to outrun Courtney Force and John Hale in earlier rounds and then beat Del Worsham in a close semifinal before speeding to another three-second run to oust the 16-time world champ in the final round. Prior to that, Beckman clocked three-second runs in two of the three rounds of qualifying on Friday and Saturday. There were 19 three-second Funny Car runs in the entire 2014 season, and last weekend there were a total of 15.

In the final, Beckman held off Force with a 3.984-second run at 316.45 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger, while Force trailed with a 4.002 at 324.51. It was Beckman’s second win of the season and 17th of his career.

In Top Fuel, Richie Crampton drove his Lucas Oil Racing dragster to his second Top Fuel victory of the season with a 3.738 at 318.09 to hold off Larry Dixon, who trailed with a 3.787 at 308.28. It was Crampton’s fourth career victory and first ever at Topeka.

In Pro Stock, Erica Enders claimed her third victory of the season and 15th of her career by clocking a 6.584 at 209.33 in her Racing In Red Chevy Camaro to race past Greg Anderson, who finished in 6.591 at 209.14.

And so the biggest day in motorsports ended. It was full of drama and excitement and didn’t disappoint in the least. You won’t be disappointed if you visit a local track, either, so be sure to make your plans for this weekend.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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