The superstar drafting tandem of five-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who raced together to win the spring Talladega race, didn't have anywhere close to the same fortune on Sunday.
After hanging around the back of the field for most of the day in order to stay out of trouble, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. had every intention of making their move with about 20 laps to go.
But an excess of late cautions thwarted their progress, along with running over some debris that required an extra pit stop.
The results were obviously disappointing: Earnhardt Jr. finished 25th and Johnson was 26th.
"I'd rather race up in there and try to lead laps and do whatever, but (two-car drafting) is really not my style of racing – being pushed and carrying on all day long," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Trying to lead a couple of laps that are sort of meaningless really doesn't make a lot of sense either. Neither alternative is really that great, you know. Pushing around and leading laps and racing up toward the front in a 500 mile race...that's not a strategy that is really putting yourself in position to win."
At the end of the race, Johnson had some grass on his grille that caused his car to start overheating a bit, so Earnhardt Jr. had to be the pusher at the end.
"As we went to make our switch, the pack was organized and with the green-white-checkered situation, there's not a lot of time to get organized," Johnson said. "We lost our momentum there and got to the outside and kind of stalled out up on the top and finished far worse than we had hoped to."
Echoed Earnhardt Jr.: "I mean, we run up on guys five-wide (and) you can't go nowhere."
The sub-par result likely put the finishing touches on Johnson's fading hopes of winning a sixth straight championship. He's now 50 points behind the leaders and has only four races to overcome the deficit.
"We'll just keep fighting," Johnson said. "Every position counts. Every spot counts. And I want to finish as high as I can in the points. If it isn't the championship, I want to finish as high as I can possibly finish."