It was a race Jimmie Johnson knew he should have won; just as well as he knew he should be leaving Charlotte Motor Speedway with the points lead.
Instead, a bobble on the final restart of the night proved costly, as all Johnson could do was scramble to finish the Bank of America 500 fourth. More troublesomes, he lost a point to championship leader Matt Kenseth, who finished third, falling four points back in the standings.
"Evidently I was too close to (Kahne) and in his way, and my car washed up a little bit," Johnson said. "A couple of guys were able to get inside of me and I just lost track position at that point, which was unfortunate.
"Once I got rolling again I was fine, but I lost too much at that point."
On the night Johnson led 138 laps and had the field covered until a controversial caution for a piece of debris with 26 circuits remaining. Although he didn't want to question NASCAR's decision and was diplomatic when asked, it was apparent the caution wasn't something Johnson agreed with in comments made to USA Today.
"I don't know, honestly," Johnson told USA Today when asked the legitimacy of the final caution for debris. "I've thrown (NASCAR officials) under the bus before and it turned out there was something there, so I've just got to watch myself and watch the video and see for myself.
"To have a debris caution stop the race when you're up there controlling it and having a good thing going is awfully frustrating. We'll take the fourth. It's not the end of the world, but every point matters right now. I hate seeing something like that shake things up."
Justifiable or not, the final caution reset the field following pit stops. Johnson restarted third -- the first driver with four fresh tires -- behind Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, each of whom elected to take two tires only.
And as the green flag waved, Johnson quickly pulled to the rear of Kahne and appeared ready to pass him for the lead. But as Johnson sped through Turn 1, his Chevrolet broke loose and pushed up the track, dropping back to seventh.
From there it was a mad -- and ultimately futile -- dash to recoup the lost positions.
"If we could have come out second, which was really close with the No. 24 (Gordon) and start on the front row I think it would have been a much different result for us," Johnson said. "But it didn't happen.
"We led some laps tonight, had a good car. I'm not sure what happened in the points, but I know it's awfully tight up there right now."