Weekend's a rev-elation

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

Welcome to the biggest auto-racing week of the year.

For fans across the racing spectrum this is the weekend when all other things are set aside and time is made for the Big Three -- the Indianapolis 500, the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Coca-Cola 600.

It's a 10-hour orgy of sights, sounds and speed, played out in high definition.

At the corner of 16th St. and Georgetown Ave. in Speedway, Ind., 33 Honda powered Dallaras will form a grid as close as any in history with just 3.0967 seconds separating the cumulative four-lap qualifying times of polesitter Helio Castroneves and the 33rd fastest time of Ryan Hunter-Reay.

There will be two Canadians in the race with Toronto's Paul Tracy starting on Row 5, 13th overall, and Montreal's Alex Tagliani starting on Row 12, 30th overall, after taking teammate Bruno Junqueira's time when his time was bumped by Hunter-Reay on the final day of qualifying.

By the time the IndyCar teams roll down the front straight at the Brickyard, Formula One's most famous street circuit will be in the books.

The 20-car field will have negotiated the narrow streets of Monte Carlo at F-1's slowest, yet trickiest circuit into the Grand Hotel hairpin, through the Tunnel straight and around the Nouvelle Chicane to produce a winner, who will carry the crown of Monaco for a season no matter what else he does for the remainder of 2009.

And shortly after the winner at Indianapolis takes the traditional drink on milk in victory lane, the 850 horsepower stock cars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will be doing their own formation lap at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. getting set for the start of the Coca-Cola 600.

It's NASCAR's longest event by 100 miles and it starts under the sunshine and ends under the lights, making changing setups on the go as much a part of winning as stepping on the gas and turning left.

So strap yourselves in, get your favourite snacks and beverages ready. It's time to go racing.

Dutch treat for NASCAR

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series also launches its 2009 season this weekend at Montreal's Autodrome Ste. Eustache where a pair of interlopers have been announced as candidates for rookie of the year honours.

The first was 17-year-old Joey Hanssen, of the Netherlands, who will drive the No. 40 Prime Champ Dodge for a team prepared by NASCAR Nationwide series star D.J. Kennington.

It's a whole new experience for Hanssen, who grew up dreaming of F-1 and open wheel racing. He got his first try behind the wheel of the 2,800 NCTS pound stock cars last month.

"It was a huge change from the GoKarts that you can manoeuvre easily, you really have to concentrate on being smooth with these cars" Hanssen said.

Kennington was impressed enough to get involved in the teen's new dream of driving NASCAR.

"When we were at Kawartha (Speedway) the first time I went out I was just over half a second behind the times of D.J.," Hanssen said. "Later in the day he took my car out for a few laps and was only about 3/10ths faster than me so I am very excited about my first race."

And Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick has expanded his horizons to the Great White North by signing 24-year-old Cale Gale to drive the NCTS 2009 season in the No. 13 Rheem Canada Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.

Harvick also owns teams in the Nationwide and Campers World Truck series.

"Cale is a very talented young driver who needs seat time," Harvick said.

Though only 24, Gale has plenty of stock car experience, having grown up on the oval tracks around his Mobile, Ala., home.

"I'm really excited to drive in front of the Canadian fans," Gale said. "From what I have been told, there are a lot of great drivers in this series and I look forward to competing with them. I grew up driving on short tracks, so it will be great to get back on them. I'm also looking forward to gaining more experience on Canada's challenging road courses."

Finish line for Whitlock

The NCTS will lose one of its most veteran drivers at the end of this season after Dave Whitlock announced his retirement this week. Whitlock, 42, chalked up 20 victories in his career behind the wheel of the No. 39 Dickies Dodge in Canada's top stock car racing circuit. In making his decision, Whitlock said it was time to give back some time to his family who had supported him throughout his racing life: "Over the years, they have sacrificed many plans and activities in order for me to go racing. I want to give some of this time back."


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