The opening installment of the best racing day of the year came from overseas as Formula 1 raced the Grand Prix of Monaco. I’ll admit I wasn’t always a fan of the series, but the stature of Monaco got me hooked a couple of years ago.
Due to the starting time – NBC came on the air at 5:30 a.m. – I didn’t wake up until the race was 22 laps in. As things turned out, there wasn’t much that was missed.
The 78-lap race that draws celebrities in abundance – there was a shot of tennis star Caroline Wozniacki during the broadcast and Justin Bieber celebrated with winner Lewis Hamilton on the podium – had to deal with rain at the start as the field ran behind the safety car for the first seven laps.
One of the big things to note about Formula 1 racing: there are no rain delays. Teams had to get creative with their use of tires as the weather improved, and it played a big part in Hamilton’s win.
The bigger reason: pole winner Daniel Ricciardo’s race team wasn’t prepared with the right tires when he came in for a pit stop at lap 31, allowing Hamilton to keep the lead. The Mercedes driver nearly lost it when he overshot a chicane on the course, but put a block up on Ricciardo just in time and legally – after a review by race stewards.
It turned out to be Ricciardo’s last real shot as Hamilton went on to win the race by a little over seven seconds.
And if you’re thinking that F1 racing isn’t worth caring about, take note of two things. Gene Haas -- co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing – has branched out with his own team featuring Roman Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, and the series will race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas in October.
After a one-hour break, it was time to celebrate a major American milestone with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. There was major pomp and circumstance, and it was on display throughout the pre-race show.
When the green flag flew, it brought an amazing race for the ages. Problems on pit road took out key contenders, fuel mileage gambles didn’t work for others.
And Alexander Rossi ended up drinking the milk in Victory Lane, the first rookie to win at Indy since Helio Castroneves did it in 2001. He barely had enough fuel at the end and looked genuinely shocked by the time the safety crew towed him in for the celebration.
There were also 54 lead changes, adding to the magic moments witnessed live by an estimated crowd of 350,000 people.
The final dose of memories to savor came from Martin Truex Jr., who won the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in almost absurdly dominating fashion.
Truex was so good under the lights, he led 392 of the 400 laps around the 1.5-mile track. The 588 total miles led set a new NASCAR record and was wildly entertaining to watch.
A few weeks ago, I documented how Truex had been snakebit throughout his career in races where he led more than 100 laps but didn’t win at the end. On Sunday night, Truex Jr. absolutely demolished the demons of failed races past and secured his spot in the 2016 Chase in tidy fashion.
To truly appreciate what the win meant, search for clips of his Victory Lane interview with Fox Sports' Matt Yocum. The hug he received from girlfriend and cancer survivor Sherry Pollex was as true and genuine as they come.
The Coca-Cola 600 had only four cautions and was run in well under four hours (3:44) with an average speed of more than 160 mph.
And in the end, race fans all around the world were left full, content and happy.
Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @Tomzsports.
NEXT WEEK'S RACES
Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile tri-oval), Long Pond, Pa.
-SPRINT CUP: Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, Fox Sports 1. Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or your local MRN Radio affiliate.
Race distance: 400 miles, 160 laps.
2015 champion: Martin Truex Jr.
-XFINITY SERIES: Pocono Green 250, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, Fox. Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or your local MRN Radio affiliate.
Race distance: 250 miles, 100 laps.
2015 champion: Inaugural event.
-CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: Off until June 10 for the Rattlesnake 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.