This is one of my favorite days of the year.
The last Sunday in May usually means three fantastic auto races.
It starts early with the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco. This is one of the greatest races in the world.
Not only do the streets of Monte Carlo provide great racing, the location itself offers fantastic gawking opportunities at both the scenic locales (all those ginormous yachts in the harbor!) and all the celebrity hangers-on, party-goers, driver girlfriends/fiancés, spectators (Kim Kardashian reportedly popped in for a look-see).
After the F1 champagne is uncorked, there's time for brunch before the green flag drops at the Indianapolis 500.
It's the 100th anniversary of the most-famous Indy Car race, so there's added incentive for all the drivers to be the first to take this year's historic checkered flag.
Race day winds down with the longest race on the NASCAR schedule, the 600-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It starts in late afternoon and ends under the lights.
Racing economics: Even if you're not a race fan, the attention given to today's events is worth noting.
As I discuss in the May edition of my monthly racing column for Randall-Reilly publishing, the Indy 500 is trying to recover not only from the open-wheel series disastrous split 15 years ago, but also doing so under economically challenged circumstances.
But the real racing reflection of the U.S. economy is NASCAR. The stock car series relies more than any other sport on corporate sponsors and the long distances NASCAR fans must travel to see a race.
In most cases, travel by fans of the 48, 88, 24 (yes, I have a Hendrick Motorsports bias) and other teams is by, fittingly, driving: cars, trucks, SUVs or recreational vehicles that get parked for the weekend in the tracks' infields.
The current price of gas adds to fans' race attendance budgets. Include the cost of tickets to the race itself, not to mention concessions and merchandise once inside the gate, and you're looking at a serious expenditure.
In cases where race fans are under- or unemployed, they just won't be able to make it to the races.
So look at the grandstands at the Indianapolis and especially the Charlotte races today. That will give you a good snapshot of just where the economy really is in its recovery cycle.
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