By Patrick Reynolds
Race fans wait patiently through the chilly winter for Florida Speedweeks action to cure their cases of cabin fever. Throughout springtime, national and regional events gradually christen tracks and series. Independence Day and Labor Day set the table for big summer events. Autumn weekends decide the championships. But for my money, May holds the motorsports heavyweight belt with the best collection of biggest races.
The first weekend of the month means one word.
Restrictor plate events provide the most unpredictable races in NASCAR. Eyes focus on these events with their propensity for passing, multi-wide racing, unpredictable winners, and the possibility for dramatic pileups. Sometimes wild, sometimes criticized, but always an attention grabber, NASCAR’s biggest superspeedway kicks off the month of May.
The gates swing open for the Indianapolis 500 the following weekend. The traditional month of May for Indycars has been shortened to a couple of weeks, but opening ceremonies are still a big deal. Rookie orientation and the initial practice session are up first for the Brickyard.
The Southern 500 at Darlington has a new home on Saturday night of Mother’s Day weekend. The debate on whether the “Granddaddy Of Them All” should still be held over the Labor Day holiday can be discussed in another column. Right now the historic race is still staged at the historic South Carolina facility. These are 500 of the most treasured miles in all of NASCAR.
The pole sitter for the Indianapolis 500 is determined one week later. A single qualifying weekend is now used instead two. Saturday settles who will see Indy’s green flag first.
The Cup circuit takes the following week off from distributing championship points, but stages hard racing in a short event. The All Star Race with a $1 million winner’s prize rolls into the Charlotte area. The race has a history of flared tempers, memorable moments, and the winner’s list reads like a future Hall of Fame class.
Sunday’s Indy Bump Day is carrying more weight again. The rebuilding of the Indycar series and the 500 is bringing stronger fields with healthier car counts. The drama has been heavy the past few years and giving fans a taste of days gone by.
The final May Sunday features quite possibly the best auto racing couch potato day of the entire year.
Early risers can enjoy live coverage of the glitzy and glamorous Formula One circuit from its glitziest and most glamorous location, Monte Carlo. The Grand Prix of Monaco carries as many points as any other World Championship event, but it is the circuit’s crown jewel. The race is recognized as a racing locale outside of the industry.
A few hours after Monaco’s narrow streets begin to cool off, cars are on the grid for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The traditional field of thirty-three will pass over the yard of bricks and scream into turn one to begin the Indy 500.
Another brief respite awaits the race fan to stretch the legs and visit the refrigerator before the nightcap. Charlotte unveils 600 miles in NASCAR’s longest race, a Cup Series endurance test that holds a spot as one of the top five races of the year.
Throw in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series, Indy Lights, the Spanish Grand Prix, multiple Memorial Day weekend regional specials and May makes a legitimate claim as the best month for motorsports. Race fans should embrace and enjoy each of the 31 days.
And don’t wonder how May got full of big events. Let’s wonder how to get the other eleven months packed with more races.