Joey Logano will not take the blame from his peers for the muti-car crash that occurred on a restart Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
In the restart zone coming to the green flag on lap 86, an accordion effect through the field saw pole-sitter Christopher Bell turned into the outside wall while Ty Dillon spun to the left and through the grass. Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola, and Ryan Blaney were among the nine drivers involved in the crash.
Logano was the race leader at the time and chose the top lane. It is the race leader who has to fire first in the restart zone.
“Go back and look at the data. I didn’t do anything,” Logano said. “I just rolled it and went like everyone was anticipating it. It’s part of the new restart zone – it’s bigger – so you can’t anticipate as much as you used to without getting into trouble.
“I went late in the zone because the car to the inside of me was laying back, so I was waiting for him to get up next to me before I went. I didn’t brake check anyone. It might look like it, but you can go back and look at it and see it’s not there.”
NASCAR officials extended the restart zone by 25 percent leading to the start/finish line and 25 percent past the start/finish line based on feedback about drivers lagging back. Extending the restart zone gives the leader more room to take off, as their advantage should be. NASCAR will evaluate the change and if it will continue after the fifth race of the season.
The crash ended the days of Bell, Preece, Almirola and Tyler Reddick.
“It’s kind of stupid, to be honest with you, on a professional level, and we all wreck on a restart,” Preece said. “I don’t know what happened, but just a victim of circumstances. It sucks. I was racing around Aric (Almirola), and we were just trying to be smart and get to the end of the race. Something like that, you’re not expecting everyone to wreck coming to the restart line. It’s unfortunate.”
Unfortunately for Preece, it is his second DNF to start the season.
“That adjustment could have gotten us a lot better, and we could have kept on making little gains,” Preece said of Sunday’s race. “That was our goal, not to beat ourselves and just be there in the last 50 or 60 (laps). That’s why we stayed out that run — to see what our car would do in clean air and if we needed to work on it, which we did, and I felt like we just kept on making it better and better.
“It’s really a bad ending for this HaasTooling Ford Mustang and even Aric. So we just have to go to Vegas and be on offense and start digging out of this hole we’re in right now.”
The crash happened seven rows behind Logano. Almirola ran into the back of Blaney, was who behind Bell, and then ran over the side of Bell’s car as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver came back off the wall.
“I took off on the restart and went from second to third gear and all of a sudden everybody in front of us just stopped,” Almirola said. “I think the leader was just playing games, trying to prevent the runs coming from behind, and they stopped in the middle of the restart zone right about where they should have been accelerating.
“It was just a huge accordion effect. We were back in 16th, so everybody just started stacking up, and you can’t stop on a dime. It’s disappointing to get wrecked out of the race like that on a silly Mickey Mouse restart, but I should have known better.”
Bell didn’t have much to add about what happened, acknowledging it’s hard to see what’s developing around you. The No. 20 suffered damaged on both ends as Bell ran into the back of Ty Gibbs before Blaney ran into the back of him. Bell also bounced off Almirola and Blaney and was hit one final time by Justin Haley before spinning into the grass.
Reddick attempted to go to the left to avoid the carnage. Unfortunately, when Bell came off the wall and hit Almirola, it sent Almirola into Preece, who collided with Reddick.
“I saw the car behind me kind of laid off to get a really big run, so I kind of elected to make the decision to go to the bottom and get around it,” Reddick said. “Just got collected and went through the grass, and the right front of The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD was broke.”
Logano finished 10th. The other drivers involved in the crash who were able to finish the race were Todd Gilliland (17th), Justin Haley (21st), Cody Ware (27th), and Dillon (31st).