Tuesday Morning Hangover – The Greatest Day in Motorsports
Welcome to a new endeavor for me as a writer and motorsports aficionado…UnPhiltered was born on a crappy day in the fitness center I used to work at. My good friend knew what I am like and I needed a name for this blog. Since that time months ago, I have wanted the chance to sit down with a clear mind and write again.
A couple of false starts and failed opportunities later, the time is now. Thank you for being a part of this deal with me (even if you don’t know anything about motorsports or sports in general). While a work in progress, I will do my best to fulfill the name and bring a different voice since that is what is necessary. The TMH will become the first feature of the new site and hope to provide more content soon.
Four races (NHRA raced at Topeka, even if ESPN2 decided to bury it as usual) took place on Sunday: The Monaco Grand Prix, The Indianapolis 500, The Coca-Cola 600 and the aforementioned Kansas Nationals.
The Principality, the prestige, glitz and glamour of Monaco led off the day. Defending World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton seized his first Monaco pole on Saturday and looked good to win there for the first time since 2008. Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG Petronas team has been the class of the field since the new technical regulations were instituted in 2014.
His two closest rivals: teammate Nico Rosberg, looking to join Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna as winners of Monaco three years in a row and Sebastian Vettel in a revamped Ferrari, were close behind. Hamilton was the class of the field, leading 64of 78 laps and had a 21 second lead before 17-year-old Max Verstappen crashed his Scuderia Torro Rosso Ferrari while attempting to pass Lotus Mercedes driver Romain Grosjean at Sainte Devote.
While there are varying explanations, Hamilton pitted from the lead and fell back to third. Through multiple reports, the entire No.44 side has taken ownership of an ill-advised pit stop that cost Hamilton the win. While losing the signature event on the calendar in that manner is pretty brutal, how Hamilton and his team handle yet another strategic blunder in the upcoming races since this is a trend that has went on since he arrived there in 2013.
Rosberg goes to Canada on the heels of two consecutive wins and warm weather tire degradation fell into Vettel’s lap at Malaysia, where Mercedes screwed up Hamilton’s strategy as well. Figure Hamilton responds at the site of his first GP win in 2007.
Former Monaco GP winner and all-around driving ace Juan Pablo Montoya earned his second Indianapolis 500 win after a lap 197 pass on Penske teammate Will Power. If your driver was not in a Penske or Ganassi car, winning was not an option. Defending race champion Ryan Hunter-Reay wished he was riding in son Ryden’s wagon since it probably had better aero and speed than his Honda.
Montoya fell back to 30th early (as Cheever and Goodyear incessantly pointed out) after a lap one incident that took Nazareth, PA native Sage Karam out based on a questionable decision by A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato. Montoya would get damage on a failed restart attempt (thanks TGBB) after Simona de Silvestro nailed his right rear butt bumper. As per Penske’s clinical excellence, they replaced the whole back end in a matter of seconds.
The race was dominated by pole sitter Scott Dixon of Ganassi and Simon Pagenaud of Penske, but neither was involved in the finish. On this Memorial Day weekend, the American’s held their own. While Hunter-Reay was struggling, Charlie Kimball (3rd), Graham Rahal (5th) and Marco Andretti (6th) all had solid runs.
Kimball led and had a solid car all month in the third Ganassi Chevy. Rahal has been the best Honda all year and had his best Indy finish since 2011. Andretti left disappointed as his chase to end the Andretti curse at Indy will wait till the 100th running next year. For Honda, the Indy 500 had been the saving grace in two of the last three years since they were trounced in the Manufacturer’s Championship by Chevrolet.
However, between the aero kits, horsepower and rule changes for safety (that basically benefitted Chevy), Honda was basically holding a knife at a gunfight. If we are utilizing Rahal’s sponsor, it would be a milkshake and a burger.
Healthy eater Carl Edwards took his Jay Glazer mobile to victory lane in the Coca-Cola 600, holding off former teammate Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on fuel mileage. This gave Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of Speedweeks at Charlotte after Denny Hamlin won the All-Star Race.
However, the No. 78 of New Jersey’s Martin Truex, Jr. was the class of the field for the second point’s race in a row. Truex led the most laps (131) but the late pit gambles left the Furniture Row Chevy driver in 5th. While second in points, Truex has not been able to close the deal on his third career victory with new crew chief Cole Pearn. However, expect them to win soon enough. Fellow Chevy driver Kurt Busch led 118 laps in his Haas Automation No. 41, but finished 10th due to the pit strategy.
As per any 1.5 mile race, the field got strung out and only a few drivers really had a shot to win without taking a chance. While seven drivers led over 25 laps in NASCAR’s longest race, it was not as interesting as the hard card holders want us to believe. Consider that Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick had won every cookie-cutter race leading up to Sunday. While the defending series champion got another top 10, Johnson hitting the fence made the FOX crew sad and made his legion of fan really unhappy. Yes, I know the tense is wrong on fan.
Fans were treated to a stop-and-start affair during eliminations for the Kansas Nationals, which saw defending Road to the Future winner Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Air Force veteran Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens take home the Wally’s. Rain delays affected the race which left the final rounds to be run in the evening.
Crampton beat two-time champion Larry Dixon with a 3.738-second run at 318.09 mph in the final. This was Crampton’s second win of 2015 in his Lucas Oil dragster and got him within four rounds (20 points per round win) of point’s leader Antron Brown. On a weekend where three-second Funny Car passes became a regular occurrence (15 total), Beckman took his Jimmy Prock tuned Infinite Hero Dodge to the victory on the heels of five three-second runs.
Beckman defeated 16-time Funny Car champion John Force in the final with a 3.984 at 316.45 for his second victory in 2015 after a prolonged losing streak that dated back to his championship season in 2012. Don Schumacher Racing teammates Ron Capps and defending champion Matt Hagan are in front of Beckman but don’t count the John Force Racing Chevy group out with the Countdown format.
Enders-Stevens beat Greg Anderson in her Racing in Red Camaro with a 6.584 at 209.33 for her third win of 2015. She regained the points lead from 2014 title rival Jason Line going into Englishtown in two weeks. For those who believe women in racing only involves Danica Patrick, please watch the NHRA and IndyCar racing among other series. The women in these series can drive and usually have earned their place in the sport.
That’s the Hangover cure for this week. Keep it here on UnPhiltered for more info as the days go by…
Passionate and knowledgeable Motorsports fan along with love of football, baseball and fantasy sports. Podcaster, bowler, reader and currently working full-time while still pursuing my passions.