Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s streak of five consecutive top 10 finishes was bound to come to an end at some point.
But the manner that the best start of his career came to a halt in Sunday's NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway was not how Earnhardt envisioned it.
After having one of the fastest cars on the track in the first half of the race, the No. 88 Chevrolet mysteriously fell off the pace. The issue was so bad that Earnhardt was struggling to stay on the lead lap in the closing stages.
So what was the problem and what caused Earnhardt to finish two laps down in 24th place?
The culprit proved to be a loose trackbar on the left side that was deemed to be improperly installed upon inspection by the 88 team this week.
The poor result left a sour taste in Earnhardt's mouth and it wasn't until he landed in Texas that he was able to move past the disappointing outing at track where he typically is among the frontrunners.
"I wanted to get to the race track as soon as I could just to get that behind me and put a good result on the board and just forget about that run," Earnhardt said Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt also made it clear Thursday that there is no animosity between himself and Jimmie Johnson.
That there might be friction between the two Hendrick Motorsports teammates stems from an incident where Johnson passed Earnhardt under caution after he had spun in Turn 4. At the time of the yellow flag, Johnson was leading and didn't come to a stop on the track that would have allowed Earnhardt to maintain his position on the lead lap.
But if Johnson would have stopped, he could have lost the lead, and if the situation was reversed, Earnhardt said he "would have done the same thing Jimmie did."
"Jimmie couldn't slow down," Earnhardt said. "If you slow down, the guy behind you has the rights to take your position. I lost a position to Hamlin under caution at Phoenix, so I know all about that too well. Jimmie, leading the race, couldn't take the chance.
"He did actually try to slow down and I think that he saw that I had two left-side flat tires and it was pretty pointless for him to wait."
Earnhardt went on to further defend Johnson, saying he didn't do it "out of spite or anything like that," and that he was simply trying to run his race. Johnson would go on to claim the victory, his eighth at Martinsville.
"I would have done the same thing Jimmie did," Earnhardt said. "I'm leading the race; I've got to think about my team and my car and what I'm trying to do.
"He wasn't doing anything that he wasn't supposed to be doing. The guy is leading the race. He's got to take care of what he's doing. He's got a race to win."