Lots of racing Sunday, from sunup to sundown, and beyond

MICHAEL HICKEY / GETTY IMAGES Kurt Busch signs autographs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after wrecking car Monday while practicing for Sunday's Indy 500.
MICHAEL HICKEY / GETTY IMAGES Kurt Busch signs autographs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after wrecking car Monday while practicing for Sunday's Indy 500.
Posted: May 23, 2014

LOYAL READERS know what's coming this time of year. Sunday is . . . wait, wait . . . the greatest day in sports: the Indianapolis 500 followed by the Coca-Cola 600 . . . 1,100 miles of racing. Begin the day with the Formula One race from Monaco and you can watch racing from morning until night.

Full disclosure: I won't watch every lap. Asked yesterday on an NBC Sports conference call about anyone who watches every lap of all three races, F1 play-by-play voice Leigh Diffey, said, "They'd clearly not be married."

Added F1 analyst David Hobbs, "[If they are married, it] won't be for long."

The three races are different laps for different folks: the Monaco race is worth watching just for the scenery (NBC10, 7 a.m.).

"Monaco is obviously like the Indy 500 or like the Daytona 500 - this is the race [F1 drivers] all want to win," Hobbs said. "The track has been the same since the 1920s. It really has changed very, very little. It's only a short track [with 19 turns]. It's only just over 2 miles long. It uses all the city streets, and it's very tight."

There's always plenty of drama at Indy. One reason to watch this year is checking on how Kurt Busch does. Driving for Andretti Autosport, the 2004 Sprint Cup titlist is making his Indy 500 debut.

Busch is attempting a rare double: racing at both Indy and Charlotte. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart was the last to do it: In 2001, Stewart finished sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.

Indy starts at noon (6ABC); Charlotte coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. (Fox 29). Since Busch will miss the prerace drivers meeting at Charlotte, he'll have to start at the back of the 43-car field. The farthest back a Coca-Cola 600 winner started was Jimmie Johnson, 37th in 2003.

Parker Kligerman will be standing by in case Busch misses the start of the Charlotte race.

Even if Busch runs well at Indy, Jeff Burton doesn't think more NASCAR drivers will attempt the double. Burton, winner of 21 Cup races, is transitioning into an analyst for NBC Sports.

"I just don't know how it doesn't take a little bit away [from a driver's primary NASCAR job]," he said. "If Kurt was in the situation that he hadn't won a race, he didn't look like he was good in the points as far as [getting] in the Chase, I would think that he would be under a fair amount of criticism for taking away from this Cup program. It's got to be a unique situation where the car owner is 100 percent for it; he understands that it is going to be a distraction."

A documentary following Busch's racing doubleheader will debut Sunday, June 8, at 4:30 p.m. on NBC. A 60-minute "director's cut" of the show will air June 9 at 11 p.m. on NBCSN.

Burton thinks the Coca-Cola 600 is harder on the crew chiefs and the support staffs than the drivers.

"For the 600, there's a completely different mentality, from the engine builders, the car designers, all those guys," Burton said. "They don't like the 600-mile race. It puts them on edge. The drivers don't really get concerned about it. There's always an undercurrent of nervousness for this race, because that teams are just terrified something's going to break or fail in that 600 miles that we don't normally do."

For those like yours truly who think the Coca-Cola 600 should be trimmed to 500 miles, Joey Logano advises au contraire.

"[The] 600 miles [is] what makes it kind of our crown jewel event," Logano, a two-time race winner this year, said Tuesday. "It's the longest race we have of the year, and it feels like it, believe me. But it definitely makes it very rewarding.

"Now, if we had to run 600 miles every week, I may have a different answer for you, but the fact that it's only once a year, it kind of makes it unique, makes it a fun race. I think people put a lot of effort into winning this race just like they do at Daytona or Indy."

Johnson needs a win

No one is happier to be racing at Charlotte than Jimmie Johnson. He is a six-time winner at the track and swept both Charlotte races in 2004 and '05.

This year, however, the six-time Sprint Cup champion is winless in the first 11 races. The last time that happened was 2003, his second year in the Cup series.

Matt Kenseth also is winless. When he won a series-leading seven races a year ago, by this time, Kenseth had won three races.

Newest Hall of Famers

Former drivers Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and Fred Lorenzen were announced yesterday as the latest inductees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The sixth induction ceremony will be Jan. 30, 2015, at the Hall in Charlotte.

Elliott has the most Cup series wins of the inductees (44). White won 28 times, Lorenzen 26, Weatherly 25.

Scott was the first African-American to win a major NASCAR race, in 1963 at Jacksonville, Fla.

Anne B. France, wife of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., posthumously received the first Landmark Award for contributions to the sport.

She served as NASCAR's first secretary-treasurer.

This week's NASCAR race

Coca-Cola 600

Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

When: Sunday, 6 p.m.

TV/Radio: Fox 29/WNPV (1440-AM)

Course: 1.5-mile oval

Distance: 600 miles/400 laps

Forecast: partly cloudy, low 80s

Last year’s winner: Kevin Harvick

Last year’s pole winner: Denny Hamlin, 195.624 mph (track qualifying record).

Track facts: Kevin Harvick led the last 11 laps (28 total) to win last year’s race. Kasey Kahne was runner-up; Kurt Busch was third. Kahne led the most laps (161). Polesitter Denny Hamlin led only six laps and finished fourth. Matt Kenseth paced the second most laps (112), but finished 15th ... Jimmie Johnson is tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for most wins at the track (six). Jeff Gordon is a five-time winner at Charlotte; Kahne has won four times ... Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have never visited victory lane at Charlotte. Busch is 0-for-20 (two runner-up finishes and four thirds); Edwards is 0-for-18 (three thirds) ... The best Coca-Cola 600 finish for Jamie McMurray, winner of Saturday night’s All-Star race at the track, is second in 2010. McMurray is a two-time winner of the fall race at Charlotte.

Wins: Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, 2 each; Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, 1 each.

STANDINGS

1. Jeff Gordon 394

2. Matt Kenseth 379

3. Kyle Busch 373

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 368

5. Carl Edwards 367

6. Joey Logano 346

7. Jimmie Johnson 340

8. Ryan Newman 332

9. Greg Biffle 328

10. Brian Vickers 327

11. Brad Keselowski 326

12. Denny Hamlin 318

13. Kyle Larson 318

14. Austin Dillon 306

15. Kevin Harvick 302

Up next: FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks, June 1, Dover International Speedway, Dover, Del., 1 p.m.; TV: Fox; last year’s winner: Tony Stewart.


Email: fleiscb@phillynews.com

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