Clint Bowyer figured he was in line for a fourth-place finish.
Then he was looking at a chance at victory, and when he went for it - and failed - the fingers pointed every which way.
It was Bowyer's move to the inside of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson entering Turn One that wound up wiping out all three of them on the penultimate restart, but Bowyer said he had a boost from behind from Ryan Newman to help him.
He also was one of many wondering exactly what David Reutimann was doing as he circled the track with no brakes and the race winding down, and then stopped in a precarious spot just before Turn One to bring out the caution that changed everything.
"He drove around there for 10 laps with no brakes and finally just stopped," Bowyer said. "That was ridiculous."
It irked Brad Keselowski, too. He ran near the lead all day, but wound up ninth.
"That was really, really uncalled for and ruined the day for a lot of people," he said.
The caution allowed everyone but Gordon, who was leading, and Johnson, who was second, to stop for at least two tires. The two Hendrick Motorsports cars had dominated the day, but the new rubber behind them made their ability to hold on questionable.
On the restart, the cars chasing bunched up quickly, and mayhem ensued.
"They had the cars to beat. They should have won the race and we should have finished fourth there, but that's just the nature of the beast," he said, adding that Gordon, on old tires, spun them on the restart, and Bowyer went where Newman was heading.
"If I didn't go down there, (Newman) had already hit me in the rear and he was going to. I did and (Newman) won."
.Newman said he's been on the opposite end of such scenarios, too, and made no apologies.
"Like I said, we've lost them that way hands down several times. It's nice to be able to win one," he said.
Reutimann said he was trying to stay in the top 35 in points, which guarantees him a spot in the next race, and was very apologetic for what happened, and how it changed the outcome for so many drivers.
"They gave me a black flag. We were coming to pit road and it shut off," he said. "And that's as far as I could go."
Gordon, meanwhile, seemed to take his lost opportunity in stride once Bowyer explained what had happened.
"That's Martinsville, green-white-checkered," he said. "There are no guarantees at this place."
Bowyer wasn't thrilled with Newman for bumping him into the melee at the end, but second-place finisher A.J. Allmendinger could hardly have been more complimentary of the way Newman raced him on the final two-lap sprint.
"He didn't run me up the racetrack. He ran me as clean as could be," he said.
Denny Hamlin has won four times at Martinsville, but tried something new Sunday.
"We just tried a new setup trying to see if we could make some big gains for the fall and just didn't have it all figured out today," he said. "We brought a new car here and it looks like it needs some different things than what we typically run."
Hamlin led twice for 31 laps, and finished sixth.
AND BABY MAKES ... WORK
Kevin Harvick is a whole lot more relaxed at the track these days now that he's no longer juggling his driving duties and the one he had as an owner and sometimes driver in the truck series.
"There's a lot of things going on," he said. "I really haven't missed it at all and really underestimated how big of a relief it would actually be. So, it's been great and I still get to drive the cars and trucks, and enjoy that part of it. I get to be more a part of my Cup team off the race track, in the trailer, and at the shop. That part of it is going well."
With wife DeLana expecting their first child, there's plenty of activity at home.
"Well right now they are working on nurseries, playrooms, and the back yard has been completely dismantled," Harvick said of baby-proofing efforts. "It's a pile of dirt now. We're digging out swimming pools and all kinds of stuff to start working in that direction. Everything from baby gates, to dingers on elevators, you name it. There's a lot that's being changed. It's been fun though. It's fun to walk up there and see his clothes sitting in the closet and know that its real and coming that direction pretty fast.
"The time is going by pretty quick."
A growing family also gives him another thing to talk about with fellow racers who also are parents.
"With the baby coming, there's a lot more that you can relate to with the guys in the garage. That's kind of fun, and fun to talk about experiences that they've had, and try to get a little insight on things that are going around. You never know what kind of conversation is going to pop up when you're riding around. It depends on how long the ride is. It won't be long here."
The 515 laps and 270.89 miles made the race the longest in Martinsville history in terms of distance. ... The seven cautions for 56 laps were the lowest on the 0.526-mile oval since there also were seven on Sept. 22, 1996. ... Gordon's 328 laps led were the most by a non-winner since Rusty Wallace led 343 on April 9, 2000, and finished 10th. Gordon finished 14th. ... Newman's victory was the 16th of his career and first at Martinsville.