It’s been quite a week already and the best is yet to come for auto racing fans, with Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 (FOX, 5:30 p.m. ET) at Charlotte Motor Speedway capping off the greatest day in racing all year.
But already, this has been a huge week — crazy in some respects — but huge nevertheless. Most of the news has been good, and there has been a lot of it. Here are half dozen points to ponder this Memorial Day weekend.
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The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is out and it features a lot of positive changes, most notably Las Vegas and Richmond being the first two races of the playoffs next year, with the Brickyard 400 becoming the last race of the Cup regular season.
Oh, and the fall Charlotte playoff race with be run on the “roval” infield/oval course and it will be an elimination race. There didn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for the roval among drivers, but we’ll see how it works in practice.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 is stellar: Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. All are excellent choices, although I was surprised that Davey Allison didn’t get in and that Hornaday defeated Alan Kulwicki in a tiebreaker vote. Still, the highlight of the day was seeing the look on Robert Yates’ face when he got in. Yates, who is fighting liver cancer, was all smiles, while a lot of others were in tears.
Next year, Jeff Gordon will be a first-ballot Class of 2019 inductee, and I’d like to see Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Buddy Baker and Jack Roush go in with Gordon.
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There was plenty of news this week: Red Horse Racing shut down its Camping World Truck Series team and Regan Smith will be in the No. 43 replacing the injured Aric Almirola for the second week in a row.
On a happier note, Stewart-Haas Racing and Nature’s Bakery settled their differences, so you’ll see fig bars sponsoring Danica Patrick for two races and Clint Bowyer for two more. All legal action between the team and sponsor has been dropped.
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The Greatest Day in Racing is almost here. Sunday will see the Monaco Grand Prix in the morning, the Indianapolis 500 mid-day and the Coca-Cola 600 in the evening, starting at 5:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Yes, I am one of the 2 percent hardcore fans who watches all three races, and what a glorious experience it is.
When cars practice during the day and race at night, it makes picking a winner an awfully difficult task. That said, the Stewart-Haas Fords, particularly Kevin Harvick, and the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have looked fast so far, but the Penske Fords haven’t.
And I think the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets will be better in the race than they’ve shown so far. After a dreadful all-star race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was much more upbeat about his car this weekend and Jimmie Johnson is always a threat to win here.
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Last but emphatically not least, I’d like to use this opportunity to thank the brave men and women who given their lives in service of our country, as well as give thanks to their families. We all know that freedom is anything but free. So we will use this weekend to celebrate and salute you.