Kyle Busch seemed to have made a pole-winning run at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday. Then he was bumped by teammate Denny Hamlin. Let the politics begin.
Hamlin gets the first pick of pit stalls for winning the pole for Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, but Busch wants that spot. Busch is one of four drivers racing for the championship, and Hamlin is not. The matter is to be determined.
"It's a discussion," Hamlin said about the strategy the Joe Gibbs Racing camp will use. "Everything is earned, nothing is given. We'll have the discussion."
Reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. was in a similar position last year and asked Hamlin, a fellow Toyota driver, to give him the first pit stall, but Hamlin declined. Busch didn't think his luck would be any better.
"But it would sure be nice," Busch said.
Hamlin turned a lap at 173.863 mph in the closing seconds of Friday qualifying to bump Busch from the top starting spot. Busch thought his lap at 173.622 was enough for the pole, but it only put him ahead of the other three title contenders. Truex qualified third, Joey Logano fifth and Kevin Harvick 12th.
"We qualified 12th, not last," Harvick said. "I think it's not that big a deal if we can get our car driving right for Sunday."
Hamlin, meanwhile, won the pole for the second consecutive year and in a meaningful race for his team. He announced earlier Friday that he and crew chief Mike Wheeler are parting ways at the end of this season, and Hamlin seemed emotional about the split.
He and Wheeler won their first race together, the Daytona 500 in 2016, and Hamlin wants to bookend their time together with a victory in their finale. A win would also extend Hamlin's streak of winning at least one race every season since his 2006 debut. He had to win at Homestead in 2013 to keep his streak active.
"We definitely want to end on a high note and try to win," he said. "In 2013 we were in the same predicament where we hadn't won a race until the final race and we got it done, so hopefully it's our time to do it. We're going to keep digging."
Semifinals set at ATP Finals
Alexander Zverev set up a semifinal with Roger Federer at the ATP Finals in London by defeating John Isner 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Zverev, 21, is the youngest player to reach the semifinals since 2009.
Novak Djokovic's 7-6 (7), 6-2 victory over Marin Cilic put Djokovic into the other semifinal against Kevin Anderson.
Howell III stays hot
Charles Howell III shot a 6-under 64 and matched the best 36-hole score of his career to build a three-shot lead in the PGA Tour's RSM Classic in St. Simons, Island, Ga.
Howell, who missed the cut last week and on this course last year, was at 14-under 128, three shots ahead of PGA Tour rookie Cameron Champ (63) and Jason Gore (63).
"You just never know what's around the corner in this game," Howell said. "It's a crazy game and we're reminded of it daily. This is another reminder."
Thompson atop LPGA field
• Lexi Thompson, still winless this year, shot a 5-under 67 in the LPGA Tour's CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., moving to 12 under, three shots clear of first-round leader Amy Olson (72) and Brittany Lincicome (71).
Elias exits Astros for Orioles
Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias was hired to rebuild the Baltimore Orioles, who traded many of their star players last season before finishing with the worst record in the majors.
Elias, 35, will carry the title of executive vice president and general manager. He was scouting director and assistant GM in Houston, where he helped transform a last-place team into 2017 World Series champions.
Pearce stays with Boston
• World Series MVP Steve Pearce is staying with Boston, agreeing to a $6.25 million, one-year contract.
• Philadelphia promoted recent major-leaguer Chris Young to pitching coach. He served as assistant pitching coach last season. He replaces Rick Kranitz.
AROUND THE HORN
Figure skating: Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia led the women's competition and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan led the men's after short programs at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow.
Gymnastics: Longtime USA Gymnastics chief operating officer Ron Galimore resigned, the latest high-profile departure for the embattled organization in the wake of a sexual assault scandal.