Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading the Coca-Cola 600 with less than 40 laps to go, but it was all an illusion.
Crew chief Lance McGrew wanted Earnhardt Jr. to stay out until absolutely necessary in order to catch what he hoped would be a timely caution, possibly allowing the team to steal a top five.
But the caution never came and Earnhardt Jr., instead forced to pit under green, finished 22nd.
It was another disappointing result for a team that had seemingly overcome bad luck midway through the race (pieces of trash stuck to the grille and caused the water temperature to rise, making Earnhardt Jr. pit and lose a lap). The strategy, though, simply didn't work out.
"I wanted to pit earlier so we didn't go a lap down like we did," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That seemed like the thing to do. We were gambling – he (McGrew) was wanting to gamble – but it didn't work out for us. If it'd have worked, it would have (gotten a solid finish). But we weren't lucky."
Earnhardt Jr. said the team "worked hard as hell" throughout the race, but said it was a "long-ass race to be sliding around out there like that."
It was the No. 88's fourth consecutive finish outside the top 15, a stretch which has dropped Earnhardt Jr. to 17th in points. He sits 54 points outside the Chase.
"We got her handling pretty good there, just never had no good track position," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Got it driving good, made a lot of changes. Some worked, some hurt us, some helped us. Our strategy at the end just didn't work for what Lance had in mind.
"We really didn't finish worse than we were going to."