From the Marbles - NASCAR

Two races, two unbelievable last-lap heartbreaks. (Two cars sponsored by the National Guard, driven by guys who go by "JR," too, if you're looking for even more synchronicity.) Was Sunday the most heartbreaking day in racing history?

Understand, when we say "heartbreaking," that's very different from "tragic." Losing a race is nothing compared to the loss of life, which has happened all too often in racing. No, we're talking about races where drivers see victory cruelly snatched (or fumbled) from their grasp within sight of the finish line.

You know the stories by now. JR Hildebrand, the unknown rookie. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the icon winless for nearly three years. Both running one of the finest races of their lives, both wheeling into the last lap with almost certain victory only seconds away.

Hildebrand's loss has to be one of the most devastating in motorsports history:

Earnhardt, on the other hand, lost in a sudden fade:

After their respective losses, Junior was upbeat, Hildebrand was devastated. Which is probably as it should be; Earnhardt is on a steady upward trend, while Hildebrand may never again get the chance to be this close to a win in one of motorsports' greatest races. It was heartbreak of the highest order for both drivers, but if you have to pick one who'll bounce back faster, you have to go with Earnhardt.

Sure, both of these drivers contributed to their own demise, Hildebrand obviously, Junior more subtly. Even so, if you don't feel at least a tiny measure of sympathy for these two drivers, you, my friend, have no soul.

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