Given his dismal luck and disappointing position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, Jeff Gordon knows victories are the only thing that can turn his frustrating season around.
And at Dover on Sunday, it appeared Gordon had a car that could win. He led 60 laps, ran down and passed eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson and even pulled away from the No. 48 car when Gordon was caught a lap down.
But instead of a win, a late debris caution foiled the No. 24 team's strategy and resulted in a 13th-place finish (full Dover race results here).
"I know we had the best car," Gordon said. "... It doesn't matter. The fastest car doesn't always win the race. They won the race and we're sitting here 13th or whatever. It's silly."
Gordon said he was particularly frustrated – even more than some of the other setbacks he's suffered through this year – because he had a winning car. Halfway to the Chase, there's no points racing for Gordon.
"We don't care about finishing top-15, top-10 right now," he said. "That does nothing for us. We need wins."
And a win seemed to be in the team's grasp until NASCAR threw a late debris caution with 60 laps to go, ruining the team's strategy.
When NASCAR called for the yellow flag, both Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson cursed on the team radio and wondered aloud where the debris actually was on the track.
Gordon still felt that way after the race.
"I can't wait to see the debris on TV, because I'd like to see it," he said. "I certainly never saw it. I'm not going to make any comments until I see what their reasoning was."
After only five cautions and no multi-car wrecks in last week's 600-mile race at Charlotte, the talk heading into 400 miles at Dover again concerned the lack of caution-flag periods so far this season.
There were seven cautions on Sunday, including two for debris.
With all the coverage, Gordon seemed to question whether NASCAR listened to the media and bunched up the field as a result.
"I don't know who you really blame if there wasn't much (debris) out there, because all the media has been talking about all week long is, 'Oh, there's no cautions! There's no cautions!'" he said. "Used to be debris cautions, so, you know, who do you blame that on?"
Gordon was in the off-sequence pit position in the first place because he had a loose left-rear wheel. While he was leading, the driver felt something was amiss – not a vibration, just a loose feeling.
He radioed to Gustafson about his concern, and the crew chief confirmed the tire changer's belief the wheel didn't go on correctly during a pit stop.
"I'm not really sure what happened," Gordon said, "but obviously, something happened."