Joey Logano has lost his hard-won pole position for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, after a three-car accident also involving Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle forced all three drivers to their back-up cars for the remainder of the weekend.
Even after they'd compared notes back in the garage area, even the drivers involved seemed not to be quite sure what had happened, and the incident appeared to be one of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
"From what I gathered from that conversation he didn't think we were three-wide," said Biffle after his discussion with Hamlin. "But I also don't know if we were three-wide."
The incident appeared to be triggered as the Joe Gibbs Racing pair of Logano and Hamlin closed up on the back of the slower Biffle into turn 4. Hamlin took the low line to pass the #16, while Logano went high. Biffle's spotter was quick to warn him of the polesitter's approach and told Biffle to make sure he left enough room, but Logano realised the danger and backed off instead.
Unaware of this, Biffle maintained his mid-line rather than drifting up the track as he normally would out of turn 4: "My spotter told me to leave the #20 room because the #20 had a run, I wasn't gonna come up in front of him."
But that wrong-footed Hamlin, who couldn't see why Biffle was staying so low out of the turn when as far as he could see there was nothing on the outside. The #11 slipped up out of the low groove and impacted the #16; and then Logano ended up running into the wreck that he'd backed off to ensure that he avoided.
"I don't think that [Hamlin] thought we were three-wide, he thought we were two-wide,| confirmed Biffle after his chat Hamlin. "Ultimately, we may not have been three-wide at that particular time ... Whether he was there or not, maybe the 20 said, 'I've had enough. You're three-wide, this is practice.' I don't know.”
Biffle agreed that he and Hamlin might have been pushing too hard for a practice session: "Yeah, we were running a little hard, probably. I don't know." Biffle will lose his 13th place on the grid as a result of the mishap.
For Hamlin, it was yet another rotten day at the race track. Set-up problems saw him struggle in qualifying, and even before the practice crash sent him to the back of the grid for the start of Sunday's race he'd been due to start from 41st place.