The loose wheel picked a fine time to leave Jimmie Johnson's steering column.
But Johnson was definitive in placing the blame where it belonged -- right on his own shoulders.
In Friday's time trials at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson completed one lap in the third and final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Good Sam 500, but on his second circuit, the steering wheel dislodged from the column, and his No. 48 Chevrolet drove straight into the outside wall, slamming into the SAFER barrier with a hard impact.
Initially, Johnson was circumspect about the accident, but on Friday evening he posted on Twitter that the steering wheel had come off. On Saturday morning, he took questions from reporters in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage.
"I came into Turn 1, just working my way through the center of the corner and jumped in the gas, and as I jumped in the gas, I guess I pull on the wheel when I do that," Johnson said. "As I pulled on the wheel, it just came off in my hands.
"So I was just sitting there with no steering and holding the steering wheel staring at the blue wall, and I was along for the ride at that point."
Johnson took full responsibility for the wreck, indicating he failed to lock the steering wheel on the column before starting his laps in the third round. But he didn't want to say anything specific before consulting with his crew about the cause of the problem.
"I didn't want to falsely blame something or someone or whatever the situation may be," said Johnson, who will start from the rear of the field in a backup car on Sunday (on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET). "Honestly, it's such a delicate topic I just wanted to be able to talk to my crew guys and look through everything first before it became national news.
"Even last night it was very difficult to find out what the cause was because of the tight time frame trying to get the back-up car out. This morning the picture is crystal clear what happened. I just didn't get the wheel locked on."