Clint Bowyer regretted having caused a late incident in Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, which took Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson out of contention for victory after they had dominated most of the race.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver was a top-five contender for much of the running and was the most likely to spoil Hendrick Motorsports' run at its 200th Sprint Cup victory, after pitting for two new tires and fuel following a caution two laps from the end caused by David Reutimann's car stopping on the track.
Bowyer restarted from third behind Gordon and Johnson, who stayed out during the caution on old rubber and low fuel to keep their track position.
When the green waved for the first green-white-checkered attempt, Bowyer was quicker off the line, nevertheless he got bumped from behind by Ryan Newman, and while trying a last-gasp pass for the lead on the inside of Gordon, he made contact with the Hendrick driver which caused chaos at the front.
"It pretty much sucked," said Bowyer. "It is what it is. I don't know what the hell the 10 car [Reutimann] was doing – drove around there with no brakes until it finally just came to a halt. It's unfortunate. We had a good car.
"They (Hendrick Motorsports) had the cars to beat. [But] when the car's got tires and other cars don't... he [Gordon] spun the tires pretty hard. If I didn't go down there, the 39 [Newman] had already hit me in the rear and he was going to. I did and the 39 won."
Gordon spoke to Bowyer after the finish and admitted to his poor restart, which gave the MWR driver a run at him under braking for Turn 1.
"Clint is a friend of mine," said Gordon, who was classified 14th after leading more than half the distance. "He is a great racecar driver. It was not like him to do that. He said he got a hit from behind from the 39.
"I didn't get the best restart. The tires are really old. I spun the tires a slight bit. When I saw him go down to the inside of me I knew we were all in trouble. All I could do was just hold on tight.
"The 48 [Johnson] couldn't go anywhere, I couldn't go anywhere. He was just coming with so much speed. It won the race for the 39. Yeah, that's Martinsville right?"
Johnson finished the race 12th after being Gordon's only true rival during the afternoon. He was critical of Bowyer's maneuver, blaming him for running out of patience in a desperate attempt to snatch the win.
"That inside lane is awfully inviting at times to dive-bomb on people," said Johnson. "The 15 [Bowyer] threw a dive-bomb in there. I'm sure once he got in there and realized it wasn't the best idea.
"It turned me around. It turned the 24 [Gordon] around. But it is what it is. I certainly wish it wouldn't have happened and I wish Clint was more patient there getting started on the restart, but there's nothing I can do about it now. I really thought we had a chance to get Rick [Hendrick] his 200th win today and it is just unfortunate."
Hendrick Motorsports drivers Gordon and Johnson looked set to claim a milestone for Hendrick Motorsports at the same venue where the team took its first win almost 28 years ago.