Racing luck toys with Hildebrand, Junior

If you weren’t able to get enough televised racing Sunday, you must have ethanol flowing through your veins.

It was a great day for the IndyCar series, unless you were rookie JR Hildebrand and his Panther Racing team.

It was a good, long day for NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway, unless you live in Junior Nation.

Tools and parts are spilling from my reporter’s tool box. Perfect time to sort through it, especially while it is still less than 100 degrees in the garage.

■ GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK — One driver’s mistake often opens the door for another’s success. Hildebrand made a critical error when he passed a lapped car while leading the Indianapolis 500 by about four seconds entering the final turn.

He crashed moments later, costing him the prestigious title and his team about $1.5 million in prize money, the difference between first and second.

Hildebrand’s error put Dan Wheldon in the winner’s circle for team owner and former Las Vegan Bryan Herta.

We shouldn’t be too hard on Hildebrand, a 23-year-old Californian, for his split-second indiscretion, which will live in infamy and be replayed endlessly.

In the Coca-Cola 600, Kevin Harvick’s crew had him in the right position when other teams made a losing gamble on fuel mileage. One of those drivers was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was in the lead entering the final turn.

Good for Harvick.

The best comment of the weekend came from Jimmie Johnson on Twitter.

You might recall Harvick’s comment last year after Johnson edged him for a win at Fontana, Calif., that Johnson had "a golden horseshoe stuck up his ass."

Johnson, who blew an engine with four laps left Sunday, tweeted a day later: "Hey (Harvick), can I have my horseshoe back? Please?"

■ WHY JUNIOR IS LOVED — Millions had their emotional tanks drained when Earnhardt’s car began to sputter within sight of his first win in 105 races.

Here are a couple of reasons why Junior is so popular:

He pushed his car toward the garage instead of stomping away or waiting for his crew to do the labor. And he talked to reporters after the race and said if he had won, it would have been luck because there were faster cars in the field.

Both were classy, professional reactions.

Junior finished seventh and is fourth in championship points. He will win. Soon.

■ TRUE GRIT — No doubt the toughest racer competing Sunday was Switzerland’s Simona de Silvestro at Indy.

De Silvestro, 22, sustained major burns to the back of both hands 10 days before the race but managed to qualify and practice Friday with heavily bandaged hands. De Silvestro crashed early in the race.

She might have winced after her fiery crash May 19, but she never whined.

De Silvestro is scheduled to race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16 in the inaugural Izod IndyCar World Championship. Looking forward to meeting her.

■ INDY TOPS CHARLOTTE — IndyCar posted a big win over NASCAR in the overnight TV ratings. The Indy 500 on ABC drew a 4.3 rating, up from last year’s 4.0 and ahead of the 4.0 for the NASCAR race later Sunday on Fox.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247. Visit lvrj.com/motorsports for more news and commentary. Follow Wolf on Twitter: @lvrjwolf.

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