As Memorial Day weekend approaches, three of the world’s most prominent racing series are kicking into high gear. Sunday, May 25th will be this year’s biggest day of racing with Formula One, NASCAR Sprint Cup, and IndyCar all fielding marquee races one right after another.
For the uninitiated, the different forms of motor racing may be a confusing hodgepodge. Don’t worry. Here is a quick primer on all of the racing action to come.
Formula One Monaco Grand Prix: 7:30AM EST on NBC Sports
What is Formula One?
Formula One is an international racing series consisting of 22 cars competing in 19 races around the world. The series, considered by many to be the pinnacle of motor racing, is also the most popular with an average of roughly 24 million fans tuning in every race. The “formula,” or set of the rules that the cars must conform to, change every year. These ever-changing rules, along with technological innovation, mean that each of the 11 teams must essentially design a brand new car from scratch at the beginning of every season, making the series the most expensive form of racing in the world. In 2013 Ferrari had a estimated team budget of $US470 million, while elite IndyCar teams have an estimated annual budget of $US15 million, according to FormulaMoney.
What is an F1 car like?
Formula One cars are single seat open-cockpit race cars powered by a 2.4 litre turbocharged hybrid V-6 producing as much 760 hp. Each car is equipped with advanced kinetic energy recovery systems and DRS equipped variable rear wings. According to FormulaMoney, the design, development, and construction chassis and engines can cost teams as much as $US255 million annually.
What to look out for:
When F1 and Monte Carlo meet, the billionaires, megayachts, and celebrities come out to play. Keep an eye out for the many bold-faced names and royalty peppered around the race paddock. On the track, the key attraction will be the Mercedes AMG’s Duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton, the 2008 F1 world champion, is on an absolute tear having won four races in a row.
IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500: 12:00PM EST on ABC
What is IndyCar?
IndyCar is the highest form of American open wheel racing. Based in and around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the IndyCar series is arguable the fastest racing series in America, with speeds topping 220 mph at Indy, Fontana, and Texas.
What are the cars like?
Like Formula One, Indy cars are also open wheel, open cockpit race cars. The major difference is cost with IndyCar team budgets only a fraction of their F1 counterparts. Instead of building their own race cars, teams buy their chassis from Italy’s Dallara. All Indy cars are powered by 2.2 litre turbocharged V-6 engines provided by either Honda or Chevrolet putting out anywhere between 550-700 horsepower.
What to look out for:
The Indy 500 is more than just a race, it’s an cultural event complete with pomp and circumstance included. At 500 miles and 200 laps, look for the race to be gruelling but competitive with big money on the line. 2013’s Indy 500 winner took home $US2.3 million in prize money last May.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca Cola 600: 6:00PM EST on FOX
What is NASCAR?
While Formula One may have started as a playground for wealthy playboys, NASCAR came from decidedly more humble origins. Once a competitive hobby for moonshine runners in the deep south, it has evolved into the multi-billion dollar business that is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. At the top of NASCAR’s hierarchy is the Sprint Cup Series, followed by no less than 10 minor league series.
What are the race cars like?
Rather than push towards innovation, NASCAR focuses more on keeping the cars as uniform as possible so that the driver’s skill takes precedent over the car. The ultimate effect of this philosophy is that Sprint Cup racers often utilise archaic technology even when compared to everyday road cars. Electronic fuel injection, a technology ubiquitous in roads cars for more than two decades, made its debut in NASCAR in 2013. Sprint Cup car generally powered by low revving push-rod V-8 engines producing roughly 850 horsepower. While the car may look like production Chevys or Fords, they are actually custom-built tubular space frame chassis wrapped in sheet metal.
What to look out for?
The Coca Cola 600, run under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is NASCAR’s longest race of the year. The 400 lap, 600 mile affairs will be a gruelling exercise in endurance for both driver and machine. This year, driver Kurt Busch will attempt what is known as the double. Busch, the 2005 Sprint Cup champion, will race in the Indy 500 in the afternoon and then fly to Charlotte for the Coca Cola 600 that evening.
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