As the laps wound down at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, this much was clear: Either Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson was about to win the Goody's Fast Relief 500.
Johnson, Gordon and their Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. were running 1-2-3 in the final laps, and team owner Rick Hendrick appeared to be just moments away from his organization's 200th victory.
But then a caution came out for David Reutimann's stalled car, and Johnson and Gordon elected to stay out of the pits. On the ensuing restart, Clint Bowyer got a shove from Ryan Newman and dove aggressively underneath Gordon's car.
Then all hell broke loose.
The three-wide set of leaders – Bowyer, Gordon and Johnson – all spun at the same time, and Ryan Newman powered through to snatch away the race lead. Newman eventually went on to win the race, while Johnson finished 12th and Gordon finished 14th.
"It pretty much sucked," Bowyer said. "... They should have won the race and we should have finished fourth there, but that's just the nature of the beast. When a car's got (fresh) tires and other cars don't..."
It was somewhat predictable that a wreck would occur, particularly in the event Gordon and Johnson were unable to get a good restart. And according to Bowyer, that's what happened.
"(Gordon) spun the tires pretty hard," he said. "If I didn't go down there, (Newman) had already hit me in the rear and he was going to."
The drivers were initially upset with Bowyer for his move, but things quickly calmed down.
"It's just unfortunate (when) something stupid, a last-ditch effort, dive-bomb or something along those lines wipes you out," Johnson said. "But when you race long enough, you know that stuff happens."
Gordon and Bowyer spoke immediately after the race and Gordon appeared to be angry, but when he spoke with reporters, Gordon said the two were good friends.
"I like Clint; who doesn't like Clint Bowyer?" Gordon said. "He is just one of those guys that everybody likes. I love racing with him. It was unlike him to do that. I was pretty mad at the time, but after understanding what happened, I wouldn't blame it on him."
Gordon admitted he spun his tires, which is why Bowyer had the opportunity to dive to the bottom.
"That's Martinsville, green-white-checkered," Gordon said. "There are no guarantees at this place. Anytime they stack them up like that you know it is going to get ugly in the first couple of corners."
Johnson said he knew from experience that Bowyer's decision to go three-wide was tempting, but it wasn't wise.
"Guys typically don't make that move, because you are on the curb on that inside lane when you drive in there like that," he said. "So when I heard 'three-wide,' it was pretty late and I didn't have anywhere to go. ... Then I felt the 24 come up into me and I knew we were in trouble."