Walking through the darkness of the Richmond International Raceway garage, Dave Rogers was a lonely man.
Minutes after Kyle Busch had missed NASCAR's Chase due to a strategical mistake by his crew chief, Rogers was just beginning to come to grips with what had happened.
"I did a terrible job of doing my job today," Rogers said, referring to a gamble that, in hindsight, cost Busch a shot at this season's championship.
RESULTS: Get the recap and finishing order of Saturday night's Richmond race here.
It was a stunning turnaround that all happened within about an hour. During a 51-minute red flag near the halfway point of the race, Busch and his No. 18 team were in complete control of NASCAR's second and final wild card spot.
The situation looked dire for all the other drivers, including Jeff Gordon – who wasn't on the lead lap. No one was close to taking the playoff position away from Busch.
But when the race resumed, Rogers noticed the radar filling with blue and green again. It was 12:30 a.m., and he figured another delay would force NASCAR to call the race.
So when the caution flew for rain, he told Busch to stay out.
"I looked at the clock, saw how late it was and figured if we lost the racetrack, then NASCAR wouldn't go back green," Rogers said. "It was hard to call – and I called it wrong. I just did a bad job."
Meanwhile, Busch's competitors did pit – and NASCAR didn't call the race. When it resumed, the No. 18 car dropped anchor and plummeted back through the field. Suddenly, Gordon was dashing toward the lead and Busch was the one who was lapped.
It was a costly, costly decision for Rogers and his team. Busch had no idea if he made the Chase or not when he crossed the finish line, but Rogers was quick to deliver the bad news: He came up three points – three positions on the track – short of the playoffs.
"We missed it," Rogers said over the team radio. "I blew it, bud. My fault."
Once Rogers arrived at the hauler, he went into the lounge area where Busch was changing into street clothes. The two didn't talk, he said, but simply nodded at one another.
"Both of us are hurting, but we didn't say much," Rogers said. "Kyle did a good job of keeping his composure and took it on the chin like a man and went back to his (motorhome)."
Rogers, though, wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere. He met with team owner Joe Gibbs for nearly 40 minutes inside the transporter before emerging to explain more about his decision.
He offered no excuses for the call.
"(Qualifying for) the Chase is more than one race, but we certainly were in position to capitalize and make it," he said. "But I blew it. There's no two ways to look at it. I evaluate myself as hard as I evaluate my guys, and I gave one up today."
As Rogers spoke, it was almost as if he was still letting the words sink in. He congratulated Gordon's team for grabbing the final spot and said he failed all 450 Joe Gibbs Racing employees, along with the driver and sponsor M&M's.
"I feel like I let them down," he said. "That hurts."
In truth, there were plenty of other reasons why Busch didn't make the Chase. It would be easy to find many instances where the driver lost three positions over 26 races – the No. 18 car's multiple blown engines being a good place to start.
So when Gibbs emerged after talking with Rogers, the Hall of Fame football coach said he had full support for the crew chief he called "one of the brightest and the best."
"We love Dave Rogers," Gibbs said. "... We were there (in the hauler), sharing the moment together. We were in this together, and I think we have a great, tight-knit team here. If we have a tough night, we all have a tough night together."
But unfortunately for Rogers, Busch and the No. 18 team, they all missed the Chase together, too.