It seemed like all the stars were aligning for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Talladega.
Everything was perfect: Earnhardt Jr. had led seven different times in the Aaron's 312 and was about to restart on the front row with the laps winding down.
He had Austin Dillon behind him – the car sporting a No. 3, the number Dale Earnhardt Sr. famously drove – and it seemed like the two were about to hook up for a shot at the win.
And then, just like that, it disappeared.
So what happened? Dillon got freight-trained on the outside and Earnhardt Jr. lost his drafting help.
"They pulled out and got on his quarterpanel," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That killed him, and then I was just a sitting duck. We just didn't do it right, me and him. I don't think it was anyone's fault in particular, but we could have done a better job together and we just didn't do it right."
COLE WHITT HAPPY TO MOVE ON FROM DAYTONA
In February, when Cole Whitt accidentally spun teammate Danica Patrick in the season-opener at Daytona, the young JR Motorsports driver got a bunch of unwanted publicity.
Patrick criticized Whitt for the move, and Whitt has gotten questions about the incident ever since. So after finishing fourth on Saturday and having a shot to win the race, the rookie was feeling hopeful about moving on.
"Obviously, we have some circumstances to that race we didn't want to have happen," he said. "We've been good, it's just I made myself look bad a little bit by just one thing. It's just so in the limelight with Danica, and I felt terrible about it, but it's just kind of something that happens when you're trying to figure it out.
"I felt like we stayed out of trouble all day today, so it was nice to come out of here unscathed."
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. TAKES OVER POINTS LEAD
Defending Nationwide Series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished third on Saturday and took over the series points lead (by five points over Elliott Sadler).
But Stenhouse Jr. and drafting partner Cole Whitt nearly had a shot to win the race after they teamed up late.
"Our plan was to just go with the 88 there – it looked like our best option," Stenhouse Jr. said. "I didn't want to be getting pushed at the line. I feel like our car was pretty fast pushing somebody it just seemed to struggle a little bit by itself.
"It was cool working with Cole Whitt there, we used to race sprint cars together. He was doing everything he could to stay in line with them and we just couldn't quite get enough there."