The best Sunday in racing delivered at all three tracks


INDIANAPOLIS -- Take a good look at the three men who stood in Victory Lane on Sunday from Indy to Charlotte to Monte Carlo. On the biggest weekend of the racing year, some talented drivers rose to the top.

There's a good possibility two of those drivers -- Scott Dixon and Lewis Hamilton -- will hold championship trophies at the end of their 2008 seasons. And the other winner -- Kasey Kahne -- may be back on the road to championship contention.

The three big races of Memorial Day weekend could tell us a lot about where things are headed for the rest of the 2008 season.

Dixon and Hamilton earned the biggest victories of their careers in the top events of their leagues.

Dixon was the class of the field in the Indianapolis 500, winning at the Brickyard for the first time. He leads the IndyCar Series standings.

Hamilton showed his remarkable driving skills by overcoming an early accident in the rain to win the Monaco Grand Prix and take over the points lead in Formula One.

Kahne's victory in the Coca-Cola 600 broke a losing streak in points races that dated back to October of 2006. He was 2-for-2 in May for Cup events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, after winning the All-Star Challenge race two Sundays ago.

Kahne caught a huge break this time, moving back to the front with three laps to go when Tony Stewart blew a tire while leading.

Good fortune at Lowe's is nothing new for Kahne. The suburban Charlotte track has been a cure-all for what ails Kahne in his career. He has three victories in the past five points events on the 1.5-mile oval.

If he can carry that momentum onto other tracks this season, Kahne will return to the playoff driver he was in 2006 when he won six races, instead of the struggling driver he was in 2007 when he was winless.

"I really feel Gillett Evernham Motorsports has stepped it up the last three weeks," he said. "It's been a long first part of the season, but hopefully we have it turned around now."

Indy car racing has turned around its image this season after finally unifying into one open-wheel series after 12 seasons apart.

It brought a new vitality to the 92nd running of the Indy 500, including the largest crowd in years.

This Indy 500 won't go down as the smoothest on record. Twelve drivers failed to finish a race that had eight cautions for 69 laps, slowing the average speed to 143.567 mph. But the dominant driver and team won in the end.

"There's only a few things you get out of this business," said Chip Ganassi, who won the Indy 500 as a team owner for the second time Sunday. "One of them is trophies and one of them is rings. And one is that sip of milk [in Victory Lane at Indy]."

Dixon won the IndyCar Series championship in 2003, his first year in the series after Ganassi made the switch from CART. But the quiet New Zealand native said his victory at Indy exceeds any previous accomplishment in racing.

"This is a great memory that I'm going to treasure," Dixon said. "But now we have another championship to win."

Hamilton would like to win his first F1 title after seeing the championship slip away last season in the final race of his rookie year.

Kimi Raikkonen edged Hamilton by one point to win the title in 2007. But it was clear last year that Hamilton had unique skill in the cockpit and would continue to improve.

His win Sunday on the wet and slippery streets of Monaco was a remarkable accomplishment.

Hamilton hit a retaining barrier and blew a tire six laps into the race. He fought his way back to the front and earned a victory that eluded him one year ago. Former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso won Monaco in 2007.

Hamilton was overjoyed with his victory Sunday, becoming the first black driver to win the prestigious Monte Carlo event.

The two Ferrari drivers -- Raikkonen and Felipe Massa -- had won four consecutive F1 races this season. They started together on the front row Sunday, making Hamilton's victory even sweeter for everyone at McLaren.

"I'm sure this will continue to be a highlight the rest of my life," Hamilton said. "The last 20 laps were very emotional. I have a lot of belief in myself and this team. This is the most fun I've ever had in a race."

It was a fun racing weekend across the globe, one that included renewed hope all around.

Hope for a playoff run for Kahne, hope to regain a championship lost for Hamilton, and hope for a return to past Indy 500 glory in a unified league.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.