Matt Kenseth won the first two races of the season, but it's been downhill ever since for the former champion, and Sunday's race only added to his decline.
Kenseth started 10th but dropped to 21st before the Goody's 500 was 10 laps old.
During pit stops after 42 laps, Kenseth's team was cited by NASCAR officials on pit road for losing control of one of the tires that had just been removed from his Ford.
NASCAR said it informed Kenseth's team that it was being penalized and sent to the tail end of the longest line on the restart, but Kenseth's team said it never got the message.
The miscommunication proved costly.
When Kenseth got back on the track and failed to heed the call to drop to the back, NASCAR black flagged him, forcing him to drive down pit road at the pit road speed of 30 mph while the field zoomed by under a green flag, putting him a lap down when he returned. He never recovered, finishing 23rd.
Kenseth has finished 43rd, 12th, 33rd and 23rd in the past four races, and he's fallen from leading the points to 12th, seven ahead of No. 13 Jeff Burton.
SPEED DEMON: Scott Speed thinks Kyle Busch owes him. Speed started 36th and led 12 laps early after the leaders pitted under caution, but he was spun out by Busch and sustained damage.
He headed for the garage, crashed again later and finished 39th, 76 laps down.
"I'm sure Kyle is going to offer to buy me dinner since that's the second time this year that he's wrecked me," Speed said, laughing. "So, I'm looking forward to that."
The rookie hasn't finished better than 21st in six races and fell to 38th in points.
LEADING THE CHARGE: Jeff Gordon led 147 laps and moved into some rarified air in the process. He passed Fred Lorenzen for fifth on the list of laps led during his career on the 0.526-mile oval, now having paced 2,800.
The four guys ahead of him are Cale Yarborough with 3,851; Rusty Wallace with 3,632; Darrell Waltrip with 3,615; and Richard Petty with 2,964.
The Associated Press