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Saturday, May 24, 2008

A race fan's dream weekend

Some people view Memorial Day weekend as a chance to relax for three days and eat BBQ ribs and hamburgers until you can’t fit anything else in your stomach.

I view it as a great weekend for racing, though I’m not opposed to eating BBQ ribs and hamburgers.

First, let me touch on the Indy 500. Many say this event has lost its luster over time, and they are right. The CART-IRL split made this event a shadow of its former self for years. But now, the tide is changing.
The two sides kissed and made up, so now all the best Indycar drivers will compete for the prestigious honor of kissing the bricks.

All eyes, of course, will be on Danica Patrick and whether she can win. Look for her name to be mentioned about 200 times during the broadcast, even if she’s running 18th all day. One spoiler this weekend could be young up-and-comer Graham Rahal, son of Indycar great Bobby Rahal, who is only 19 but already has an Indycar victory. He has a great future ahead of him, and could be this year’s surprise, similar to Marco Andretti a couple years ago.

As far as the win, look for the usual suspects (Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon) to battle all day for the win.

Now on to the nightcap, NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. Kyle Busch took the pole, and will run up front for much of the race. The question is whether “rowdy” Busch can keep his cool and not run that motor into the ground. The 600 is a long race, and many cars don’t make it to the end because the parts under the hood can’t handle it. Busch can drive like a maniac, and you need to be a little more cautious to end up in victory lane at the 600.

Brian Vickers and David Ragan both qualified in the top 5, and have a shot at the win in they can stay up there. Both drivers are surprising the NASCAR world with their strong finishes this year, so keep an eye on them. Mark Martin is my longshot pick, and as always, the Hendrick cars can never be dismissed, as they know a thing or two about getting around Charlotte.

Barring a fuel mileage race (last year’s top five was the shocking list of Casey Mears, J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty, Reed Sorenson and Brian Vickers), I say Busch pulls it off. The Gibbs team smartly went back to using Toyota engines this week, after experimenting with an in-house product for the All-Star Race. Busch may be smug and annoy most fans, but as long as his engine holds out I don’t see anyone beating him Sunday night.

Enjoy your weekend, and remember it’s about more than just food and fun. Don’t forget to give thanks to those who have sacrificed their lives so we can live in freedom.


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