There is nothing like Memorial Day Sunday when you’re a racing fan. Here’s how to watch all the action on DISH.
The month of May is a busy time of year for everyone — Mother’s Day, graduations galore, and the NBA and Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing. But if you’re a motorsports fan, this is without a doubt the best time of year. The Sunday before Memorial Day features three of the most important races to be run all year-long: the Monaco Grand Prix in F1, the Indianapolis 500 in IndyCar, and the Coca-Cola 600 in NASCAR.
Monaco: An Exciting Modernized Relic
Common logic dictates that Formula 1 should’ve left the streets of Monaco in the ‘60s or ‘70s when the series was growing rapidly and the cars were becoming much too fast for Monte Carlo’s hairpin turns and narrow straits. Instead, the series returns to the principality at the end of May every year for the most anticipated race of the season. It is an expensive, multi-month process to set up the barriers, fences, grandstand bleachers, and other safety equipment to keep the drivers contained within the two-mile circuit run entirely on city streets. But there’s a reason F1 continues to come back year-after-year even though “permanent” racetracks dominate the schedule.
Tradition is king, and Monte Carlo is full of it. The Monaco GP is one of the longest-running events in F1 history and has survived decades of change and uncertainty in the sport. It has been a consistent sight on the schedule since 1955, except for 2020 when the race was canceled due to COVID-19. There is so much history and prestige associated with the event, drivers will gladly admit that a win at Monaco is worth two anywhere else. Still, it is amusing to see today’s souped-up, brutally-modernized machines take to the tiny streets as if the drivers are, to quote F1 legend Nelson Piquet, “riding a bicycle around a living room.” It’s certainly a sight to behold, and one that is welcome every May.
Who’s the favorite to win? It’s hard to bet against Red Bull and defending champion Max Verstappen, considering he’s won every race this year when he’s been running at the finish. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes found new speed in Spain after a slow start to the season, and teammate George Russell is sure to keep up his strong 2022 start. But a victory by Ferrari driver and hometown hero Charles Leclerc would be one for the ages — and he’ll likely need to win if he wants to keep championship leader Verstappen in his sights as the series heads into the summer stretch. Lights out for the Monaco Grand Prix is scheduled for 3:00pm track time, or 9am ET in the United States, on ESPN.
Indianapolis: The Greatest Spectacle in Racing
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a storied history just like Monaco: it was constructed in 1909 with more 3.2 million bricks making up the track surface and is the third-oldest permanent racetrack in the world. There have been 105 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 to date, and last year’s winner Helio Castroneves is looking to do something no other driver has done before: win the Indy 500 for a record fifth time. He’ll have his work cut out for him, as he’s starting all the way back in 27th position out of 33 cars. Over a third of Indy 500 winners have come from the first row (positions 1-3), so the odds of Helio making history aren’t impossible, but not likely either.
The resurgence of the Indy 500 as a major sporting event is a welcome one after nearly a quarter of a century of turmoil. In the mid-90’s, IndyCar split in two to form the IRL (Indy Racing League) and CART (later Champ Car), a decision that nearly cannibalized American open-wheel racing, and with it, one of the world’s most historic races. In the fallout, there was a time when NASCAR’s race at IMS, the Brickyard 400, outdrew the Indy 500 in spectators and TV ratings by a wide margin. The two leagues reunited after Champ Car went bankrupt in 2008, but the series has yet to fully rebound to its heyday decades go. Now nearly fifteen years after the reunification, the prestigious Indy 500 is looking close to a sell-out crowd for the first time since 2019.
Who’s the favorite to win? Polesitter Scott Dixon’s four-lap average of over 234 mph put him in the top five of fastest qualifying runs ever for the Indy 500. And considering most winners come from the first few starting rows, other strong candidates include 2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou, veterans Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan, and former F1 driver Romain Grosjean. But all eyes are on sophomore IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion who jumped to open-wheel racing after retiring from stock cars in 2020. Thus far, Johnson’s IndyCar career has been a struggle – he only ran road and street courses last year as a rookie and failed to maintain competitive pace with his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates. However, Johnson’s first foray on an IndyCar oval came earlier this year at Texas, where he ran inside the Top-10 most of the day and finished a very respectable 6th. The 83-time Cup Series winner and 4-time Brickyard 400 champion will start 12th on Sunday, and he has a legitimate shot to win the biggest race of his life. Coverage for the 106th Indianapolis 500 begins at 11am ET on NBC.
Charlotte: NASCAR’s Marathon Crown Jewel
Rounding out the day in Charlotte, North Carolina is the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the season. Originally intended as a competitor to the Indy 500 with a near-identical start time, the Coca-Cola 600 now begins in late afternoon and finishes at night to beat the southern heat. Whereas Monaco is about finesse and Indy is about raw speed, Charlotte is about tenacity: drivers will be cooped-up in their cars for over four hours as they drive the distance from Chicago to Washington, D.C., with parts failures and engine issues constantly on their mind. Every 100 laps, the caution flag will fly to slow the field and award points to the Top-10 drivers on track. The Coca-Cola 600 is considered a “crown-jewel” event in NASCAR Cup Series competition – the other races being the Daytona 500 in February and the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend. Drivers want to win this race as much as any other, but being the first one to the checkered flag after 600 grueling miles is easier said than done.
While IndyCar doesn’t do much in regards to the Memorial Day holiday, NASCAR goes all-out with an extensive pre-race show dedicated to the military as well as the playing of “Amazing Grace” and “Taps” before the green flag. At the top of each windshield, there is a rail with the name and rank of a fallen service member, and most of the cars sport special patriotic paint schemes. During the last few years, NASCAR has brought the entire field down pit road under caution at the halfway point and had the drivers turn their engines off for a reflective moment of silence.
Who’s the favorite to win? Honestly, it’s anybody’s race. Just because a driver is dominating in the early part of the event doesn’t mean they’ll have the best car when the sun goes down and there’s more grip on the track. Teams have to make timely adjustments during pit stops to stay on top of the changing surface, otherwise they’ll fall behind and no longer be competitive. While 600 miles is a long time to rally from an early mistake, an ill-handling racecar can be one of the longest nights of a driver’s life.
Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson and William Byron will likely run up front at some point, as well as Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex, Jr. Surprise winners could include Tyler Reddick from Richard Childress Racing, who is still looking for his first career win; or Ross Chastain, an aggressive young driver in the middle of his breakout year with sophomore team Trackhouse Racing. Pre-race activities for the 2022 Coca-Cola 600 go live at 4pm ET on FOX.