While Memorial Day is known as the time to reflect and remember veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, for motor racing fans, the Sunday before is the biggest day of the year with two of the three racing series driving on their most historic tracks.
F1 — Circuit de Monaco
The racing fun begins at 9:10 a.m. Sunday on ESPN when 19 F1 drivers and their cars, arguably the most technologically sophisticated in the world, line up on the Circuit de Monaco grid for a chance at glory.
The Monaco circuit, located in the principality of Monaco in the city of Monte Carlo, is one of the most demanding 2.074 miles the drivers, who are considered the best in the world, will experience all season
Weaving through the streets at speeds between 25 mph and 185 mph between aluminum rail fencing that doesn't give when struck, the circuit is so narrow it barely has room for cars to pass one another.
As a result, the pole position at the Circuit d Monaco is one of the most coveted during the season because once the race starts, the top four pole positions are usually the only cars of the 19 that will challenge for a win.
Does that sound boring to watch? Yes. It can dreadfully boring, but for F1 fans, drivers and teams, it is their series equivalent of the Super Bowl primarily because of its storied history.
However, the Circuit de Monaco is the supreme test for the drivers who participate. While the race, at times, can seem dull, watching these men navigate their machines through the streets of Monte Carlo at top speed within inches of one another is amazing.
And, because the cars do not pit for fuel during a race, only tires, the stops are typically below 3 seconds ... that's right, 3 seconds. That is fun to watch.
The F1 cars
One of the unique characteristics of F1 cars is that each is handbuilt by what are called "constructors" to achieve success within the guidelines established every year or so by the sanctioning body known as the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
And as a result, as automotive technology has become more advanced, so have the F1 cars.
Today's cars are built to create a significant amount of downforce — up to 2.5 times the weight of the car — using front and tail wings. The engine used has a turbo, but also includes what is called a kinetic energy recovery system — very similar to today's hybrid cars — that uses the energy created by braking to charge a battery that powers an electric motor that can provide drivers an additional 160 horsepower over the nearly 1,200 horsepower at rpms that range between 10,000 and 16,000.
F1 motor racing is also different from nearly all other forms of racing — the season-ending championship does not go to the car's driver, but to the car's constructor. Teams are fighting to place in the top 10 with prize money being awarded that is estimated to range for the 10th place team at about $40 with the first place constructor awarded nearly $150 million. That money, plus any sponsorship money, is what pays to keep the teams fielding cars each season.
Drivers are paid by contract to each team. While a driver will the driver's championship, it doesn't change what he is paid annually.
Drivers and Teams to watch:
The Mercedes team, whose drivers are Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton and Finland's Valterri Bottas, has won the constructors title for five straight years and have finished first and second in the F1's first five races this season. The teams and drivers will be fighting for a sixth consecutive first and second race.
The most decorated of all the F1 teams is the legendary car manufacturer Ferrari with 16 constructors' titles. However, this season, while expectations were high it could compete with Mercedes, its two cars, driven by four-time driver's champion Sebastian Vettel and newcomer Charles LeClerc, have done no better than third so far this season.
The Red Bull team, which won four constructor's championships with Vettel behind the wheel, has rising star Max Verstappen guiding one of its two cars and is another team to watch. The Red Bull car is known for his legendary ability to maintain speed in mid-speed corners, which could bode well on Monte Carlo's tight circuit.
The Best of the Rest
The American team Haas, in only its third season, continues to be the strongest team in what is called the mid-pack of the field. While there is little possibility it will be fighting for a podium finish — first, second, and third — at least one of its cars should have a top 10 finish.
NTT IndyCar Series — The Indianapolis 500
On Sunday, with coverage beginning at noon on NBC, the most celebrated race in the U.S. will have 33 cars line up at "The Brickyard" for its 103th running.
The track is a 2 ½-mile speedway oval where the cars can reach speeds of up to 230 mph, which is essentially the gas pedal mashed to the floor, flat out.
At those speeds, drivers have fractions of a second to make decisions and one missed corner apex can mean trouble, big trouble at those speeds.
Fortunately, IndyCar, like all of the other major motor sports series, have taken enormous steps forward in keeping drivers safe in the event of a crash.
Can the same question be asked as in the Sunday F1 race — is it boring to watch? Depends.
When cars are zooming along at an average of 220 mph, often side-by-side by inches, the skills demonstrated by the drivers is something to watch — sometimes even terrifying. While watching the open-wheel cars racing with their tires within inches of one another at those speeds you might not notice your body instinctively tensing up, preparing for the two cars to touch sending one or both out-of-control.
That factor alone can make watching the Indy 500 an exhilarating experience.
In an effort to contain costs, several years ago the series adopted a uniform chassis for all cars — called the Dallara However, teams are allowed to chose between a Chevrolet or Honda engine.
The car and driver must weigh less than 1,600 pounds. The engine is 2.2 liters in size, are fitted with twin turbos and can generate between 600 and 800 horsepower. While most Indy Car races allow what is called "push to pass" while allows a driver to increase horsepower by about 50, it is not used in the Indy 500.
Teams can adjust some of the car's aerodynamics, but it is really skill of the men or women — yes, women have been competing in the 500 since the 1970s -- behind the wheel and pit stop strategy that usually determines the winner.
Unlike F1, IndyCar Teams can field as many cars as it can afford.
For example, Team Penske has four cars in the 33-car field, as does Andretti Autosport and several other teams field three cars.
Drivers to Watch
This year's field includes seven former winners of the race, including three-time winner Helio Castroneves, who is always a threat to win.
On the pole this year at a top speed of 230 mph is American Spencer Pigot. Last year's winner Australian Will Power and 2017 winner Takuma Sato are also in the field.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series — The Coca-Cola 600
The longest race of the NASCAR series at 400 laps or 600 miles, it is held each year on the 1 ½ mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coverage beings for the third race of the day at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports.
The Coca-Cola 600 is unique in that the race starts during the day and concludes at night, which poses a challenge for teams to keep the cars competitive as track conditions change as cooler temperatures arrive.
The NASCAR cup series races are also different from its two counterparts in how victory is achieved on the track.
Each of the teams' cars are so similar in horsepower, suspension and braking, that the race is now won or lost on a team's ability to create the most aerodynamic car possible within NASCAR specifications.
As a result, the field of 40 cars often line up behind one another to stay in the "draft" of other cars. This, as NASCAR has figured out, can also make for a less than desirable race experience as car just go in circles for nearly four hours.
To make the racing more enjoyable, NASCAR now runs races in three stages at 500-mile races, but add a fourth during the 600.
Each stage is 100 laps and points are awarded to the top 10 drivers, starting at 10 point for first and one point for 10th.
That means the 600 will have four different starts, which can create exciting racing.
Unlike the lightweight F1 and Indy cars, a NASCAR spec car will weigh about 3,500 pounds with V-8 engines generating about 850 horsepower at between 9,200 and 9,400 rpm.
The cars used for NASCAR are built on three primary chassis — Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota, which became involved in NASCAR in 2007.
Drivers to Watch
It can difficult to predict which driver might dominate the race, especially since the introduction of stage racing.
However, fans should keep an eye on Joey Logano driving for Ford. He leads the in the points at the time. Also Kyle Busch, driving for Toyota is a consistent performer, as is Ford's Kevin Harvick, Chevy's Chase Elliott, the son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott. Ford's Brad Keselowski, and former NASCAR champion, will also be in the hunt for a win.
It should be a fantastic day of racing for motor racing fans around the world. And if your favorite driver doesn't win, there's always the next race.
Follow Cliff Clark on Twitter @Cliffcclark