Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car silently and slowly crept toward his team's hauler in the Chicagoland Speedway garage.
A couple crew members arrived to give it a final push, and the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion made the turn and came to a stop.
Johnson climbed from the car and puffed his cheeks in exasperation, then shook his head and quietly mouthed, "Damn."
It was that kind of result for Johnson at the Chicagoland NASCAR race on Monday, a disappointing 10th-place finish after he led 39 of the 267 laps.
What happened? Simple: He ran out of fuel, unable to stretch his gas mileage as race winner Tony Stewart – with the same opportunity – made it to Victory Lane.
"I can't complain too much," a subdued Johnson said. "The car in Victory Lane has the same power, same everything. From my driving style, I've never been all that good with fuel mileage. ... Not what we wanted."
Johnson said he ran out of fuel coming to the white flag, so he was an entire lap short. Crew chief Chad Knaus had told him to start saving at the beginning of the final run – and Johnson tried his best – but he wasn't close.
"I really felt like I had done enough," he said. "They told me I needed a lap before the run started, and I gave up racing (Stewart and Matt Kenseth) quite a few laps earlier than they started trying to conserve fuel – and I still ran out coming to the white. So I don't know what I did wrong. I've just got to get better at saving fuel."
The Hendrick Motorsports driver said he was somewhat encouraged – "within reason" – by how his team performed at Chicagoland. It certainly seems like Johnson will still be a threat to win his sixth straight title in the final nine races.
"It was fun today, running up front and leading some laps," he said. "We had great speed. Just one lap short on fuel."