Championship leader Brad Keselowski will move to the front row of the grid for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup finale following a crash in practice involving polesitter Joey Logano.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got caught in an incident ignited by contact between his teammate Denny Hamlin and Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle at the exit of Turn 4 during practice two on Saturday afternoon. The tangle left enough damage on the three cars that all three drivers will move to back-up machines and consequently start from the rear of the field in the championship finale.
Logano had earned pole position in Friday evening's qualifying session but once he drops to the back during the formation laps, the inside lane will move up a row, thus promoting Keselowski, who was third in qualifying, to the front row beside Richard Petty's Marcos Ambrose.
The polesitter is usually entitled to choose which lane he wants to start the race from according to the series' rulebook, "unless otherwise directed by NASCAR". Officials have effectively decided not to allow Logano to have a choice and thus have any influence at all on how the title battle unfolds. The JGR driver will team up with Keselowski at Penske Racing in 2013, and was therefore expected to help the Chase leader with his choice.
Keselowski now has the chance to fight for the lead on the opening lap and further increase his 20-point lead in the championship by another bonus point.
While the Logano incident was a stroke of fortune for Keselowski, Hamlin reckoned the Penske driver already looks quick enough to beat title rival Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 10th.
"Keselowski is smiling right now," said Hamlin. "Those guys are executing. And I don't think the 48 [Johnson] is showing the speed to beat him anyway."
Biffle said the practice tangle was caused by confusion between him, Hamlin and Logano.
"From what I gathered from that conversation, [Hamlin] didn't think we were three-wide, but I also don't know if we were three-wide," said Biffle. "My spotter told me to leave the 20 [Logano] room because the 20 had a run. I wasn't going to come up in front of him."