Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin were left frustrated by fuel-mileage hampering their chances of fighting for victory in Sunday's Sprint Cup series race at Dover.
The five-time champion was up front when fuel calculations came into play and his strategy to save fuel and try avoiding an extra stop meant he had to concede the lead to Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch and then drop behind Chase rival Denny Hamlin and eventual race winner Brad Keselowski.
Although he was able to make it to the end, Johnson's fourth-place finish left him pondering what could have been had the caution flags waved differently in the end.
"Well, for starters, we're not very good at fuel mileage races," said Johnson. "So, when I heard that, I'm like, 'Man, we're in big trouble.' He asked me to start saving fuel, and I doubled the distance out of the gate just to make sure that I did enough to get us to the end. So, it's tough; it really is.
"But we have a handful of races that come down to it each year and we've worked to get better at it. And this is like the second of 15 or something that we've attempted to finish in a low fuel situation and got it done. So I'm improving and we're improving. I wish we could have raced for it. We finally got control of the race, late, but it just didn't unfold like a normal race here."
Title contender Hamlin eventually had to stop for fuel a lap after his teammate Busch did from the lead. He lamented his team's pace throughout the race didn't translate into a better result due to the fuel mileage finish and said his team opted for power over fuel´efficiency when setting up its cars.
Between Busch and Hamlin they led 345 of the 400 laps at Dover but they finished only seventh and eighth respectively.
"It's so frustrating... it's like all the hard work that you do, it just doesn't pay off," said Hamlin. "Same thing at Richmond – we just didn't have the fuel mileage. We choose to have the horsepower over the fuel mileage and some guys don't tune that way. When you have a race-winning car you don't want to give up any of the horsepower. It's frustrating.
"They're not going to beat us on the track – that's just plain and simple. We're just too fast right now and I feel like everything is going well. These strategy games and the way these cautions are falling, it's ill-timed. These cautions fly when some people can and some people can't make it. It's messing everything up.
"We need to improve our fuel mileage, we know that and we'll work on that as much as anything. For me, I'm not too discouraged because we ran our ass off today."