2011 Indy 500: J.R. Hildebrand's Indianapolis Heartbreak Is One for the Ages

Jim FolsomContributorJune 2, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, AL - APRIL 10:  JR Hildebrand, driver of the #4 Panther Racing Dallara Honda, spins in front of Graham Rahal, driver of the #38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda, and Helio Castroneves of Brazil, driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Honda, during the IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 10, 2011 in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The race was over. The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was going to a rookie driver, J.R. Hildebrand. There was nobody close to him. All he had to do was cross the finish line. That's it. Just keep it in the road. And then...

Disaster struck! He slams into the wall! WHOOAAAHH! Did he just do that? Are you kidding me? He had it won!

Unbelievable! How is he ever going to live that down? This is Bill Buckner in the '86 Series. This is Scott Norwood in the Super Bowl. Nick Anderson in the NBA Finals. In fact, this may be worse than all of them.

This was making one more turn. This was the 800th turn of the day. If Anderson had made 799 straight free throws before bricking the last ones, then he might have some competition. If Tom Watson's putt on the 18th at the British Open would have been from six inches away and he was not 59 years old, that might have given him some competition.

Yeah, yeah, I know, they are going over 200 mph. That makes it a little more difficult than a tap in. Okay, maybe. But when you've been driving that fast for three hours you should be used to the speed by now. Not to mention, he could have slowed down a bit, there was nobody near him.

If he wins the 500 for the next five years in a row, he will never live this one down. He'll never get his rookie year back. He'll never get back the chance to win in the 100th running.

And what a story it could have been on Memorial Day. The National Guard cars could have won twice on a Holiday to honor fallen veterans.

At Indianapolis and at Charlotte they took the white flag. At Indy the car hits the wall and at Charlotte it runs out of gas. I guess since the National Guard is funded by tax dollars, we should all feel like we lost twice that day. But I can't imagine what that poor kid Hildebrand feels like.