Coca-Cola Racing Family roundup
June 17, 2013, NASCAR.com
Welcome back to Victory Lane, Greg Biffle.
The veteran driver secured his first win of the season Sunday, winning the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
It was his first win since, well, the fall race at Michigan, giving the driver back-to-back wins at the 2-mile track.
Tony Stewart joined Biffle in the top five for the second consecutive week. The Stewart-Haas Racing owner finished fifth.
Joey Logano finished ninth, giving the Coca-Cola Racing Family three drivers in the top 10. And while Danica Patrick missed out on the top 10, she had her best showing since April.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Michigan:
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: One week after his runner-up finish at Pocono Raceway, Biffle found himself in Victory Lane for the first time this season. And what a trip it’s been. The No. 16 team struggled for a month early in the season, falling out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup picture. With a victory to fall back on, Biffle can’t quite breathe easy, but at eighth in the standings, he appears to be in good shape. The win Sunday was also the 1,000th for manufacturer Ford in NASCAR.
Quotable: “Yeah, it's definitely a special day. It was Father's Day, my first, Emma's first Victory Lane today, so that was pretty special for me. You know, we certainly didn't probably have the fastest car today at times and kept working on it, kept making slight adjustments on pit stops, and you know, track position is huge with our car, and it's been well documented that we feel like we've been a little bit behind this season. We've been gaining on it. It looks like we're well on our way to getting some speed back in these cars, and continue to work on them and figure them out and get them to be just a little bit better yet. It was fun racing with those guys.”
His standing: Biffle is eighth in the standings with 443 points.
Outlook: Biffle is known as a strong race on 1.5-mile tracks and up. That’s true. But he may get somewhat of a bad rap on road courses. This week’s race is at Sonoma Raceway, a 1.99-mile road course in northern California. Biffle was seventh there last year and has four top-10s in the past seven races at the track.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: What an ascent from three-time champion Tony Stewart. In 20th place less than a month ago, he’s now cracked the top 10 in the standings. Even if he falls out of the top 10, he is in good standing for a Wild Card berth to the Chase due to his win at Dover. Stewart’s fifth-place showing at Michigan -- which came in a back-up car -- was his third consecutive top-five and fourth consecutive top-10. There are 11 races to go before the field for the Chase is set.
Quotable: “I think we definitely got a lot of luck there at the end, but we’ll definitely take it because we haven’t had much to this point in the year. A caution came out at the right time, and we got a good restart. Two of the guys ahead of us -- one had fuel trouble and one had a tire issue -- so we got some breaks going our way. It was a good weekend for me (after) putting us in a hole as far as I did on Friday crashing our primary car. But I’m proud of these guys, and I’m definitely proud of the effort this week. I thought our guys did a good job.”
His standing: Stewart is 10th in the standings with 417 points.
Outlook: Stewart’s time has been gritty all year. Now that it has a bit of luck, can anyone slow the veteran’s chase to the Chase?
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Again, Logano found himself in the top 10 following Sunday’s race (he finished ninth). It’s the fourth consecutive top-10 for the driver, who has worked his to 14th in the standings, in a pack of drivers who are separated by precious few points. Logano’s early-season issues seem to be behind him.
Quotable: “Of course I think everyone knows that this Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion was much better than ninth today. So yeah, in that sense it is always frustrating. However, that’s good when you can finish in the top 10 and still be frustrated with it. When you are getting to the point to where you finish up there and you expect more, that means you are hitting your stride. All-in-all, it was a really good day. We ran strong, we led laps and we proved we were a car to contend with this afternoon. Sure we would have liked to have finished in the top three, which is where I think we could have run, but I’ll take another top 10. It was a good points day for sure.”
His standing: Logano is 14th in the standings with 405 points.
Outlook: Logano has just four starts at the road course in Sonoma, and he’s done well the past two years. In 2011, he was on the pole and finished sixth. Last year, he finished 10th. Such a showing at a tricky course in 2013 could vault him into the top 12.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick typically does well on wide, flat, fast tracks. Sunday at Michigan was no different. Patrick finished 13th on the 2-mile Michigan track, her best showing since finishing 12th at Martinsville -- a different type of track altogether -- in April. Crew chief Tony Gibson has told Patrick that she’s been the bug for a while, and her time as the windshield was coming. Is it here?
Quotable: “I think we caught some breaks out there. Yellows definitely helped us be able to get track position as far as closing up the gaps and being able to pit a few times. We tried to take right side (tires) and get track position early on. It just didn’t go well, and we just hadn’t gotten ourselves to a good place with the car that I could carry the speed that I needed to run with the (pack). It didn’t work out so well. We worked on it and got it better. At the end of the race, the last run was the best run I felt as far as the balance of the car, which I was surprised because we had fallen off a little bit at the end of the run before. This will hopefully get everyone’s head up a little bit, and we will go on. I think we have been strong lately. We just needed to have days like today where we finished it off.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 277 points.
Outlook: Her experience at fast, big tracks won’t help this weekend. Patrick is headed to Sonoma to get a taste of road-course racing.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Good pit strategy worked to Newman’s favor last week. This week at Michigan, it was plain, old bad luck that cost him. A great pit stop gained Newman 10 spots, and he was in seventh with less than 30 laps to go. A flat tire wrecked Newman’s chances. The driver felt his tire go flat during the caution, and so he came back to pit road again. The crew put on new wheels, and Newman didn’t lose a lap, but he came out of pit road in 25th place.
Quotable: “That was a tough break for our Quicken Loans team. When we came out seventh after that pit stop, and we finally had some track position and the clean air that we needed, I really thought that we were going to ‘Bring It Home’ for Quicken Loans and get another top-five finish and pay five people’s mortgages for a month. I really wanted to have a strong run for Quicken Loans in their race, in their backyard, so I’m pretty disappointed right now.”
His standing: Newman is 18th in the standings with 389 points.
Outlook: His top-five streak snapped at Michigan, Newman must look toward the future. It looks likely he’ll need a win, and possibly more than one, to qualify for the Chase.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin lost the points position he gained last week following a 30th-place outing in which his No. 11 Toyota was a mess on the slick Michigan surface. Hamlin, though, was in the spotlight for a good reason. To honor the life of Jason Leffler, who died in a sprint-car crash earlier in the week, Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota underwent a retro paint scheme to have a similar look as the car Leffler drove in 2005.
Quotable: “It was an idea that I had to pay tribute to Jason (Leffler) in today’s race. We had become friends over the past several years and had the same circle of friends, so it meant a lot to me to honor his memory. I have to thank JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and FedEx for letting us do this -- Jason was there at the start with FedEx joining JGR back in 2005 and there are still about five crew members on the team that were on the team with Jason so I know it was real special to all of them. Also want to thank NASCAR for letting us change the wrap on the car on such short notice -- just wanted to help pay tribute to Jason.”
His standing: Hamlin is 26th in the standings with 299 points.
Outlook: A 14-point day isn’t what Hamlin needs. Even if he picks up a win soon, he’s still 85 points behind 20th-place Kurt Busch.