Craig Murto

Craig Murto

The Memorial Day weekend is the biggest race weekend of the year, with the world’s top racing series in action.

Sunday will be a good day to spend in front of the television, as racing begins early with the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco. Always a spectacle, the race around the streets of the principality is one of the most prestigious events on the F1 calendar.

You’ll barely have time for a nap before NBC coverage of the Indy 500 begins. With qualifying speeds kissing 230 mph, the iconic American race should be fast and furious.

Once the checkered flag drops at Indy, it’s time to prepare for the green flag at Charlotte, as NASCAR’s best compete in the Coca Cola 600. The longest race on the NASCAR calendar is an endurance event that often provides a surprise winner.

Last weekend’s racing provided a good preview of what to expect. The NASCAR All-Star race was exciting and full of drama, starting with the All-Star Open qualifier.

William Byron proved he’s not afraid to be aggressive when he won the first stage of the Open to transfer to the All-Star event. Bubba Wallace won the second stage to transfer, and Kyle Larson transferred by winning the Open. Alex Bowman won the fan vote to transfer.

The All-Star race provided four-wide action, and Kyle Larson became the first Open winner to also win the All-Star race. Wallace finished fifth, and Byron ninth, so it was a good night for the drivers who transferred.

We even got to see Clint Bowyer throw some post-race punches at Ryan Newman. Bowyer was smart to keep his helmet on.

Simon Pagenaud won the pole for the Indy 500 with a four-lap qualifying average speed of 229.992 mph. But the real drama occurred when Fernando Alonso was bumped from the field in one of the most drama-filled qualifying sessions at Indianapolis in years.

The former F1 World Driving Champion, two-time Monaco winner and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans attempted to make his second 500 driving for McLaren, but he missed the race by 0.019 mph, bumped by 23-year-old California driver Kyle Kaiser.

According to, this isn’t the first time a major upset has occurred in Indy qualifying. Two-time winner Rodger Ward missed the race in 1965. In 1993, defending series champ Bobby Rahal was too slow to make the field. In 1995 the Penske cars of Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi both missed the show. And last year series regular James Hinchcliffe went home.

McLaren has got to be embarrassed. And Alonso must be disgusted. McLaren’s lackluster performance in F1 appeared to be part of the reason for Alonso’s semi-retirement. This humiliation at Indy isn’t going to make him feel better about his former team. Will he return to try again? Hopefully, but it may not be with McLaren.

Mark June 23 on your calendar; it’ll be a good day to head to Hagerstown Speedway for the Frank Sagi Memorial race. Veteran Pennsylvania racer Tom Peck will be a special guest. Sagi was the voice of Hagerstown Speedway for many years. He also worked at other tracks in Maryland and Virginia. His son, Alan Sagi, is a veteran dirt Late Model competitor. Grandstand gates open at 4 p.m., and the event will be moved along quickly so you won’t be out too late on a Sunday night.

The Saturday night before the Frank Sagi Memorial, the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour will visit Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Virginia.

The CARS Tour was at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford on Saturday night, and the fans in attendance and those watching on saw an exciting show. Bubba Pollard out-raced Matt Craig for victory in the Super Late Model portion but it was the Late Model Stock Car race that provided the most thrills.

Josh Berry, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., dominated. But late in the race Bobby McCarty moved Berry up out of the groove and won by inches at the line.

If you were watching over the weekend, you would have seen the exciting NASCAR Modified Tour race at New Jersey’s Wall Stadium, won by Woody Pitkat. A lot of good racing is available at fanschoice, but you won’t see it unless you log on.

But nothing matches this weekend’s line up of Monaco, Indy and Charlotte. Get up early, get comfortable, and enjoy!

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.