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Race Weekend Preview – May 26-27, 2018

For race fans the coming weekend of racing has to be the closest thing there is to the football Superbowl (the Daytona 500 notwithstanding). On Sunday, we will be able to see, in sequence the F1 Grand Prix from Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte – all great events in their own right.

F1 Monaco Grand Prix

While the 2017 champion Mercedes team got off to a bit of a slow start this year with the first three races going to Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Lewis Hamilton seems to have regained his winning ways, taking the checker in the last two rounds.
Hamilton has won here previously in 2008 and 2016, with Vettel taking the honours last year. While the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may continue their current dominant streak, the Ferrari drivers and the Red Bull drivers all have shown strong performances at times this year. Monaco, with its tight, twisty city circuit can produce unexpected results and we may well see a surprise winner this year. However, given the difficulty of passing here, the drivers who qualify on the front row of the starting grid probably have the best shot at the win.
The sole Canadian driver in the field is young Lance Stroll, who is in his second season driving with the Williams team. Last year he finished here in 15th place while his best result was a third at Baku. In the five GPs so far this year, his best result has been an 8th at Baku.
In Canada, the race will be broadcast on TSN5 starting at 9:05 am on Sunday, May 27th – with a full complement of pre- and post-race coverage.

Verizon IndyCar Indianapolis 500

The starting lineup for this race has already been established with Ed Carpenter on the pole. He was second fastest on the first day of qualifying last weekend while Helio Castroneves, who has won here three times already (counting the race Paul Tracy, with good reason, claims as his win) and he was the fastest of the Saturday qualifying times. Castroneves is running this year as a one-off ride for Roger Penske but both of these two experienced drivers have to be favourites to win the big race.
Danica Patrick is back to drive in her final Indy car race, indeed her final competitive race. Driving for Ed Carpenter’s team, she qualified seventh quickest last Sunday. She led the race here in her first year and she could be a contender again.
As for the three Canadians who attempted to qualify for the race, the biggest news was that James Hinchcliffe, who qualified on the pole here in 2016, failed to make the cut for the 33-car field due to a sequence of unfortunate circumstances. Technically, he could buy a ride in another car that had qualified for the race but it looks like that is not going to happen. Meanwhile, his teammate Robert Wickens had a time good enough to give him a mid-pack starting position. Unfortunately, in practice the next day, he crashed his car, but expect him to be ready to go come Sunday. Wickens entered this series on the trot, almost winning both of the first two races. Although he is inexperienced on ovals, he could come up with a surprisingly good performance.
The third Canadian is the less-well-known Montreal driver Zachary Claman De Melo, who has signed on with Dale Coyne Racing for a number of road course events this year. After Pietro Fittipaldi was injured in a crash at Spa a couple of weeks ago, Coyne needed to find a driver to replace him for the Indy 500. Somewhat logically, he chose Claman De Melo – who surprised many observers by qualifying with the 13th fastest time, ahead of Wickens in 18th place a row behind him.
This race will be flagged off at 12:19 pm (ET) on Sunday. The race broadcast will start at 11:00 am on ABC and Sportsnet 1 and Sportsnet 360.

NASCAR MENCS Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

The Coca-Cola 600-mile race is the longest one in the NASCAR Cup series, running 600-miles/400 laps on the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Now that the track is lighted, the race starts mid-afternoon, well after the conclusion of the Indy 500 and runs into the darkness. As the track goes from the heat of the afternoon to the cool of the evening, crew chiefs and drivers have the challenge of adjusting to the changing conditions; a car setup that works early on may be useless after the sun sets.
The race was won last year by Austin Dillon, who also won the Daytona 500 in February of this year. 2017 champion Martin Truex won here in 2016. This year Kevin Harvick seems to have the hot hand. He has won five of the 12 championship races so far – as well as winning the non-points All-Star race here at Charlotte last weekend. But don’t count out either of the two drivers who are ahead of him in the current points standings, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are three of the next generation drivers who look like having a shot at the win.
It is hard to imagine a hard-fought NASCAR race going 600 miles without a few big crashes so, if that’s your thing, watch this race.
The race broadcast for the Coca-Cola 600 is on FOX and TSN4 and TSN5 starting at 6:00 pm after a half-hour pre-race broadcast.
If you are going to watch all three races flag-to-flag you will need to go shopping to stock up on enough drinks and snacks to last you the whole day from nine in the morning to eleven o’clock at night. Enjoy!

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