Gentlemen, and ladies, start your TV remotes

Eight hours can be an eternity if you're making widgets in a factory, flying to Europe, or driving to Reno with the kids.

Spending one-third of a day watching races from your couch, however, is a holiday.

You get a jump on Memorial Day this Sunday with at least eight hours of racing. It starts with the Indianapolis 500, which begins at 10 a.m. That will be followed by the Nextel Cup race from outside Charlotte, N.C., beginning at 2.

You'll qualify for the Slim Fast Golden Couch Award if your day begins at 4:30 a.m. with the Monaco Grand Prix Formula One race on the Speed channel.

You can't be urged enough to implement a few healthful techniques when absorbing up to 1,260 miles of racing in one day.

Get up frequently to avoid back and butt pain. Look away from the screen to prevent frozen eyeball syndrome. And make an occasional fist to thwart the onset of thumb cramps from excessive remote control use.

There's danger in racing. We accept that, even as couch potatoes.

It's the best day of the year for race-watchers. Park your butt on the couch, put new batteries in the remote and keep Visine nearby.

The best battle of the day will be to see if the Indy 500 can beat the Coca-Cola 600 in the viciously fought contest for television ratings. It's the only day when IndyCars can topple stock cars as the week's most-watched sports program. Last year was a virtual dead heat with each pulling a 5.9, according to Nielsen Media Research. (Ratings indicate the percentage of all households that watch a broadcast.)

And nearly a half-million fans will attend the races, including about 300,000 at Indy.

This is the most compelling 500 in more than a decade since the open-wheel world's civil war began with the formation of the Indy Racing League. That started the decline of what once was America's darling form of racing.

Indy can claim the best human interest story of the day, if not the year, with the return of former Las Vegas resident Davey Hamilton. He will race for the first time since a near-fatal crash six years ago in an IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway that almost led to the amputation of his feet.

NASCAR can counter only with the latest chapter in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s job search.

Southern Nevada has brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch in the Cup race, but four of the 33 teams at Indy have local roots. Hamilton in the No. 02 is joined by a trio of Henderson residents: Sam Schmidt, who owns the No. 99 car, and drivers Richie Hearn (No. 91) and Al Unser Jr. (No. 50). Las Vegan Jamie Little will be a pit reporter.

It's also a day to revel in technology. Each race will be on satellite radio: Indy on XM, NASCAR on Sirius. Best of all for Indy watchers is the IRL's use of "side-by-side" viewing that offers live racing action on the screen during commercials. NASCAR hasn't figured that one out yet. Thanks to video-recording devices you can rewind if overcome by sleep.

Even environmentalists have reason to tune in. While NASCAR this year caught up to the 1970s by switching from leaded to unleaded gasoline, the IRL uses ethanol. Apparently NASCAR still believes corn is good only for making moonshine and corn dogs.

From a racing perspective, Indy will be won by a driver from either Chip Ganassi Racing or Penske Racing. In NASCAR, the shock will be if the winning team is not from Hendrick Motorsports, which has won eight of 12 points races this season.

Once again at Indy, the prerace command will be "Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines." A record three women will start at Indy: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher and rookie Milka Duno.

Number of females in the Cup field: the same number as Martians.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or