Coca-Cola Racing Family roundup: Pocono
August 05, 2013, NASCAR.com
For the second consecutive week, Ryan Newman paced the Coca-Cola Racing Family with a sterling showing. One week after winning at Indianapolis, Newman finished fourth in the GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Joey Logano also placed in the top 10 for the second consecutive week, coming in seventh, and Newman’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart was ninth with Greg Biffle in 10th.
Four top-10s among the six drivers that make up this family? Not bad at all.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Pocono:
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: There was no back-to-back win for Ryan Newman at Pocono, but there was a back-to-back top-five. The veteran continued to drive his way closer toward a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after finishing fourth at the Tricky Triangle. Newman is nine points behind Martin Truex Jr. in the standings, and Truex currently holds the final Wild Card spot. The only downside for the driver was a lackluster performance in the pits that cost him position several times, even on two-tire stops.
Quotable: “It was a good run for our Haas Automation Chevrolet but not as good as it could have been. We struggled in the pits today, but overall it was a good effort. We raced a lot of the guys around us in points, guys that all have the same sense of urgency that we do to score a win, or another win, in my case. Jeff (Gordon) was really close, and he’s fighting for a Wild Card spot just the same as we are. Just a bad day on pit road for us. We’ll have to get that figured out.”
His standing: Newman is 15th in the standings with 575 points.
Outlook: ‘Rocket Man’ Newman has pieced together back-to-back 40-plus point performances to get closer to a Wild Card berth, of which there are two for NASCAR’s postseason. Things could get a real shake up at Watkins Glen, a 2.450-mile road course, but it’s tough to bet against Newman the way he is driving right now.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: You have to wonder if Joey Logano is having a real case of the “what ifs” right now. What if he wasn’t penalized 25 points earlier this season? What if he didn’t have major tire issues in back-to-back races? The answer is simple: He’d be in the top 10 in points if those things didn’t happen. But those things did happen. So now, all Logano can do is continue to drive well and hope a win comes -- perhaps this week at Watkins Glen. Logano finished seventh at Pocono for his second consecutive top-10.
Quotable: “Those restarts helped us. The cautions hurt our strategy a lot but then at the same time the cautions at the end helped us make up what we lost. We were a lot better than where we finished. Seventh isn’t bad but I thought we were a top-three car today and have been the last few weeks. We need to keep that going and keep the momentum up and keep climbing toward a spot in the Chase. We have a couple top-10 finishes in a row and we have been running up front in the top-five the whole race. That is more of a momentum builder than the actual finish. If we didn’t have flat tires we would be on that top-10 streak still and I would feel pretty comfortable about our Chase hopes.”
His standing: Logano is 17th in the standings with 561 points.
Outlook: Logano is a skilled driver, and he’ll be up for the intricacies of Watkins Glen. He’ll have to do better than last year, though, when he finished 32nd and completed only 71 of 90 laps. He finished fifth at WGI in 2011.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart was one of two veterans (Jeff Gordon was the other) to drive up into the top 10 swiftly after starting in the 20s. Stewart does well at Pocono, so a poor qualifying effort followed by a rained-out Saturday didn’t do much to lower his expectations -- or results. He currently holds the first of two Wild Card spots and is five points out of 10th place, which would result in an automatic Chase berth.
Quotable: “We got here today thanks to good strategy by the crew chief because the driver screwed up today. I got us the pit-road speeding penalty and put us in the back. Steve’s (Addington, crew chief) pretty keen on the pit strategy and what to do to get us back up there. He got us back the track position; I just was a little too tight to stay there. It was a long day, but we’re glad to have a good day for GoDaddy, Mobil 1, Bass Pro Shops and Chevrolet. We had a solid day, and we’ve just got to keep clicking them off like this.”
His standing: Stewart is 11th in the standings with 594 points.
Outlook: It’s getting awfully tough to find a realistic scenario in which Stewart won’t make the Chase. He’s running well, he has a win and some of his better courses are still to come. In fact, he’s among the best in the Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen, where the circuit heads this week.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Biffle could never quite get a handle on his car Sunday. First it was tight. Then it was loose. But, with a second-place finish at the first Pocono race in his pocket, the Biff gutted out a 10th-place finish. That was the good news. The bad news is that he actually lost two spots in the standings because of how well Kasey Kahne (win) and Jeff Gordon (second) did.
Quotable: “That was a tough day. We just couldn’t get the balance right and were a little too tight and a little too loose back and forth. We didn’t have quite what we needed, but it was good enough for a top-10 finish and we will take that. I am proud of my guys. They worked hard to keep us in the top-10 today.”
His standing: Biffle is 10th in the standings with 599 points.
Outlook: Biffle tends to do well on superspeedways, but his road-course racing skills are underrated. He’s improved his performance in that area over the years, and he’ll need a strong showing this week at Watkins Glen with five races remaining until the Chase field is set.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick was in line for one of her better showings of the year before being involved in a four-car wreck. For starters, the No. 10 Chevrolet was fast off the hauler. Then Patrick drove a nice race and, due to being on a different pit strategy, was in the top 10 for a while. Her hopes of a top-20 finish ended, though, when she and Travis Kvapil got together on Lap 110.
Quotable: “There was a car outside of me, and when there is a car outside of you going through fast corners, it takes the side force off of it, and the car gets looser when someone is there. It hadn’t been a problem all day. I didn’t do anything different that time. I even kind of told myself going into the corner, ‘It’s fine, just run through the corner.’ I don’t know if he was closer than other cars had been to my outside or not. … I feel bad for the team because we were having a good day, and I know it’s nice to finish those days off and it would have been nice to finish in the top 20. That is just my goal. … It’s simple, it’s nothing crazy, but it’s been a challenge this year. It would have been nice to do that, and we were just having a steady race and a good race, and it’s over.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 373 points.
Outlook: Patrick’s team can’t seem to piece together a solid finish. Either she’s not running well, or she runs well and is involved in an incident. It’s been a frustrating few races for this group.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Just when it looked like things couldn’t go any worse for Denny Hamlin, they did. Hamlin lost control of his ill-handling machine and smacked the wall in Turn 3 hard just 15 laps into Sunday’s race. It was hard enough to end his day, and it also caused him to be scored with a finish of 43rd -- last in the field.
Quotable: Hamlin was unavailable for comment.
His standing: Hamlin is 25th in the standings with 388 points.
Outlook: Hamlin has repeatedly said he won’t have season-ending back surgery. Expect the No. 11 team to try and grind out this season, and perhaps steal a win along the way.