With the checkered flag ready to be waved on the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon was in the position he wanted to be in as he closed in on race leader Denny Hamlin.
As the pair raced off of Turn 2, Gordon had a run on Hamlin and had to make a decision on how to best get around the No. 11 machine: Should he use his momentum and attempt to pass Hamlin on the outside, or should he get to the back of Hamlin's bumper and move him up out of the groove?
Gordon chose the first option, and it was a decision he immediately regretted afterward as he bobbled between Turns 3 and 4, leaving Hamlin to drive away with the victory.
"I'm just mad at myself right now," Gordon said. "I guess I'm getting soft at my old age; I'm too nice. Fifteen years ago, I would have just moved him up the racetrack. I don't know why I didn't do that."
For Gordon, it was choice that could come to define his season, as he desperately needed a victory Sunday to put himself in excellent shape to make the Chase. Instead, he will now head to next week's regular season finale at Richmond in the same position he entered Atlanta: Needing a win to salvage his season or miss out on the playoffs for just the second time in his career.
"We got a lot of pressure on us, so we're going to be going there guns loaded and ready to do battle," Gordon said. "I mean, just like what we did tonight.
"We're just going to fight all the way to that last lap. Short track is a little bit different than mile-and-a-half. I think everybody expects there to be a little more pushing and shoving on the short track. So that's definitely going to ramp up the intensity."
But with his season hanging in the balance, Gordon made it clear that he won't be so nice if he finds himself in the same position at Richmond on the white flag lap.
"Don't get in front of me on the last lap," Gordon (somewhat) jokingly told third-place finisher Brad Keselowski.
"That race is always intense," Gordon continued. "I've been a part of it when I was either trying to get in – like this – or trying to stay in the Chase. There is so much on the line and trying to win the race.
"But when you look at how many guys have to win, the points and everything else, it's going to be a pretty crazy night."