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Fri, Apr 18, 2014

Blog: Memorial Day turns into bad luck for National Guard cars

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Last Sunday most people were sitting at home or on the lake enjoying the holiday weekend. However, for couple of racecar drivers it turned into a nightmare at two of the biggest races of the year.

“The Streak” of Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued in Sunday’s Coke 600. He has not visited victory lane since the 2008 Michigan spring race, which equals to 105 races, before Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

There was a late caution that caused the event to go past the scheduled 400 laps, otherwise known as a green-white-checkered finish. Gas mileage became the dominate factor in the closing laps as several drivers, including Dale Jr., were trying to save enough to be able to finish the race.

Unfortunately, his tank ran dry before the final turn and Kevin Harvick, who is nicknamed the Closer, took advantage and picked up his third victory of the season.

While the large legion of Dale Jr. fans are left to wonder what is going to take for the No. 88 to celebrate in victory lane.

Ironically, Earnhardt took advantage of the fuel mileage situation back in 2008 and his ability to save gas back then at the right time put him in the top spot.

However, that is nothing compared to what happened earlier in the day at the Indianapolis 500, a race that was celebrating its 100th birthday.

A young rookie driver, who die-hard open wheel fans had wanted to get a solid ride before the season, J.R. Hildebrand was one turn away from kissing the bricks and drinking milk. However, he went outside to pass a slower car, he got caught up in the marbles and smacked the turn four wall.

The guy that had the same ride last season, Dan Wheldon, drove past him and across the Brickyard’s finish line to win his second Indy 500. The crash also cost Hildebrand more than a million dollars. Wheldon took home, according the box score provided by the IZOD Indycar Series, $2,567,255, while Hildebrand, who droved his wrecked racecar across the line for second earned a total purse of $1,064,895.

Another weird turn from this race is Wheldon does not have a ride for the rest of the season, while Hildebrand prepares for the twin races at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11.

Both of these finishes had a couple of similarities, the role of fuel mileage and both cars had the same sponsor, the National Guard, in which the Memorial Day celebrates.

Danica Patrick (you might have heard of her) pitted with 12 laps to go because of a lack of fuel. Then, Bertrand Baguette led until two laps to go when he needed to top off with fuel.

In the NASCAR race, Dale Jr. took the lead at the restart with two laps to go after the leader Kasey Kahne ran out of gas and caused a crash. However, the yellow flag, which usually comes out after an accident never did in this case.

The saddest thing about these two drivers bad luck last Sunday was both of their vehicles had the National Guard logos painted on it.

That was the cruelest thing to happen on a weekend that we give thanks to the soldiers for all that they had done to protect this nation.

However, Hildebrand proved he belongs in the Indycar series, while Dale Jr. will get back to winning in the near future. His team has performed a lot better this year than all of last season. Mostly importantly we still have soldiers willing to give the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us can feel safe.

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