Kevin Harvick was dominant Saturday at Kansas Speedway, leading a race-high 119 laps and being one of the few who could successfully navigate traffic.
But a slight misstep leaving pit road with 30 laps remaining proved detrimental, allowing Jeff Gordon to move ahead and eventually cycle into the lead.
It was a deficit Harvick couldn't overcome and, instead of celebrating his third victory of the season, Harvick finished runner-up to Gordon in the 5-Hour Energy 400.
"We ran out of gas coming to pit road there," Harvick said. "I was looking at the fuel pressure gauge instead of the tach and lost a bunch of time down pit road and off of pit road, wound up getting stuck behind the 24 (of Gordon).
"I think, to win the race, I just needed to execute on pit road better the last time down."
Harvick also blamed himself for a poor lap as he tried in vain to chase down Gordon in the final 10 laps. That bobble was likely the difference between finishing second and the 0.112-second gap between himself and Gordon.
"You can't win them all," Harvick said. "For me, I made a mistake at the end and felt like that's probably what cost us the chance to stay in front of the 24. But the 24 was good all night ... it came down to track position, and those guys executed a little bit better than I did."
The second-place result was Harvick's fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better, further proof of a turnaround for a team which had been hampered by inconsistency early in the season.
His night was also part of a strong overall effort for Stewart-Haas Racing at Kansas. Along with Harvick, Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart each spent much of the night in the top 10, with Patrick recording a career-best seventh-place finish. (The fourth SHR car of Kurt Busch encountered numerous problems and finished 29th.)
Patrick attributed the breakthrough performance to some advice Harvick offered her Friday, when the two spoke at length.
"For her it's just the confidence in knowing exactly what the car is going to do," Harvick said. "There's a lot of hurdles to overcome for her to make up that inexperience. I feel like we can help her speed that process up by just telling her some of the things that she should expect and do.
"But I guess the one thing I did tell her was just to quit thinking about it and smash the gas. Sometimes your car is never going to be perfect, and you just have to take what it'll give you and expect that every time you pit it's going to be better, and if it's not you adjust and move on."