The diehard racing fans were treated well on Sunday with two, dramatic final lap passes. And when I say final lap, I actually mean passes coming out of the final turn.
In Indianapolis, it was an error that will surely have JR Hildebrand kicking himself for years to come. Hildebrand found himself a few inches out of the main grove in turn four while trying to pass a lapped car as he was leading. Hildebrand’s No. 4 National Guard car smashed into the outside wall, with Dan Wheldon charging from seconds back to pass Hildebrand’s crumbled car less than 600 feet from the start finish line.
Hildebrand finished second. Disappointing is an understatement.
In Charlotte, it was a case of coming up less than a half lap short of fuel.
[media-credit name=”Greg Author” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the crowd going nuts when he restarted at the head of the field in a green-white-checkered finish.
Kasey Kahne, who started on the outside of Earnhardt on the restart, ran out of gas, causing a major pileup as Earnhardt drove away to near certain victory.
Earnhardt, who, like Hildebrand, drove for the National Guard on Sunday, looked as though he was two laps away from breaking a 104 race winless streak.
Earnhardt led at the white flag, one lap away from the win. Earnhardt continued to lead on the backstretch.
Earnhardt ran out of gas.
As Earnhardt’s fuel tank finally emptied, Kevin Harvick, in his familiar “where the hell did he come from” fashion, sped by Earnhardt to take the checkers.
Earnhardt finished seventh.
And, for the second time that day, America and the world watched a driver lose two of the year’s biggest races on the final turn.
While a win for Earnhardt and Hildebrand would have seemed to be a perfect fit on Memorial Day weekend as they carried their National Guard colors. But it just wasn’t meant to be.
Still, more wins are sure to come for both drivers. And the nation’s heroes were able to see their drivers contend for a win on the world’s largest racing stages and they were treated to some of the best races either series has to offer.