Tony Stewart and Mark Martin lined up on the outside for the final restart of the Daytona 500, both drivers just two laps away from an elusive victory in NASCAR's biggest race.
But when the green flag flew, Stewart and Martin dropped anchor and fell back through the field. Stewart finished 13th; Martin was eighth.
It was a disappointing result for both, especially for Martin – who had returned to the lead lap after being three laps down. Both drivers will return to Daytona in 2012 still in search of their first win in the 500.
For some reason, the Stewart/Martin two-car tandem just couldn't get going. What the heck happened?
"We just never got the bumpers locked together; we kept bouncing off each other," Stewart said Friday. "Then a couple guys got a run through the center there, and it just pulled him off of us even more. We got separated so badly that we never did get hooked back up together."
Martin said the two simply "broke apart." He kept trying to push Stewart, but he couldn't get attached and would bump Stewart's car forward when he tried to connect them.
"For reasons that we can't determine right now, those things break apart when other cars are around, and we broke apart and Tony didn't immediately know it," he said. "So by the time he realized it, we were far enough apart that it was too late now. Our chance was over."
Martin's big comeback from being so many laps down had left him feeling like the Daytona 500 was shaping up to be something special for the veteran, but it just didn't work out that way.
"I thought we had an excellent, excellent shot at it, but as it turned out, we didn't get the run that we hoped we would," he said. "The wind from the other cars broke us apart."