It seems impossible to believe. Twice on Sunday guys driving a National Guard car named “JR” lost their respective events coming out of the final turn. It’s the kind of stuff that eventually becomes a chain email and sends you to snopes.com to verify the validly of it.
It did happen though.
Rookie JR Hildebrand ran a fine race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and when cars in front of him had to stop for fuel it looked as if the 20-something kid from California who was making just his third start in the series was going to win the biggest race of the year. Unfortunately the rookie part of that equation caught up with him as he attempted an unneeded pass on a slower car coming out of turn four.
I didn’t watch the whole Indy 500 but from the moment I had turned it on until the end I had heard about how treacherous the outside grove was. You could almost sense something bad was going to happen as the camera panned the track. Hildebrand got high and the next thing you knew his car had bounced off the wall. As he slid down the front stretch, Dan Wheldon erased the deficit to cross the start finish line and head to victory lane.
Hours later a similar event happened in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In a race that was marred by wrecks in the closing 100 miles Greg Biffle led Kasey Kahne. Unfortunately for both their fuel chambers required more American Ethanol. Matt Kenseth who had led the most laps stoped along with Jeff Gordon to get a splash. A few moments later a caution flag came out. Biffle was forced to stop for fuel, Kahne ran out on the restart. Dale Earnhardt Jr was ready to end a long winless streak as the field wrecked behind him.
Anyone not a fan of the 88 machine had to wonder how NASCAR would not throw a caution with two laps remaining and the number 31 of Jeff Burton sliding in the grass and back up the track. It was unbelievable. Dale Waltrip commented how this was a great move by NASCAR. Yea a great move to try and hand Dale Earnhardt a victory is what I thought. As Earnhardt came around to take the white flag I half expected the official to throw the yellow flag with the excuse of debris on the back stretch. It didn’t happen though and then Dale Waltrip starts talking about the possibility of Earndhadt running out of fuel as he appears to be slow in turns three and four.
He was out of fuel. Second place driver Denny Hamlin, who had recovered from a bad car early on, also ran out of fuel. Kevin Harvick drove past both on his way to vulturing another victory in the final lap. David Ragan finished second.
It was unbelievable, it was exciting and it was emotion filled. To see two of the biggest races in motor sports come down to the final turn, on the same day, was the stuff memories are made of. Fittingly the following day happens to be Memorial Day.