Coca-Cola Racing Family roundup: Richmond
September 09, 2013, NASCAR.com
Ryan Newman led the Coca-Cola Racing Family with a third-place finish at Richmond, and was later awarded a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Newman, with one win this season, had lost out on the tiebreaker for the final Wild Card to Martin Truex Jr., but NASCAR docked all Michael Waltrip Racing drivers 50 points.
Greg Biffle and Joey Logano, meanwhile, both qualified for NASCAR’s postseason Saturday. Biffle finished 12th at Richmond to comfortably advance, while Logano sweated out a 22nd-place showing to finish the regular season in the top 10 by a single point over Jeff Gordon.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Richmond:
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman ended the regular season in fine fashion, posting two consecutive top-fives at Atlanta and Richmond. His Richmond run of third place was his best showing of the season other than his win at Indianapolis. Newman led four laps and was in the lead at the end before a Clint Bowyer spin brought out the caution, sending drivers to the pits, where Newman lost ground. NASCAR later ruled, though, that MWR drivers tried to manipulate the results of the race, awarding Newman a Chase berth.
Quotable: “The Quicken Loans Chevrolet was good, no doubt. Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the guys did a good job making it fast. In the end, I’m proud of the guys. We came from nowhere this year to be in this position.”
His standing: Newman is 12th in the standings with 2,000 points.
Outlook: Newman will drive the final 10 races with a shot at winning the 2013 championship. It’s also his last go-round driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. In an interview with NASCAR.com’s Alan Cavanna, Newman said his goal would be to go out and try to win them all.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Biffle was on the Chase bubble with two races remaining, but he comfortably entered the postseason with consistent finishes. One week after a 15th-place effort in Atlanta, Biffle took 12th at Richmond. He had a win to fall back on, anyway, but Biffle finished in the top 10 of the regular-season standings and earned three bonus points for his win at Michigan. He is the No. 7 seed in the 12-driver Chase.
Quotable: “I feel really good right now. I gave up there at the end. Those guys were going crazy. I wish I would have gotten a top-five finish out of that. We had a great car. I just couldn’t get it right getting into one and as the speed started picking up I started getting worse. I just could never get it right getting into one down there.”
His standing: Biffle is seventh in the standings with 2,003 points.
Outlook: Now that the Chase is set, it’s an entirely different outlook for Biffle heading to Chicagoland. The No. 16 team doesn’t have a great history at the 1.5-mile tri-oval with just one top-10 in 10 starts. Biffle trails former teammate and top-seeded Matt Kenseth by 12 points in the standings.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin wasn’t in a position to win, or even claim a top-10 at Richmond, but he drove better than he has in nearly a month and finished 21st. It was a tough break after starting sixth, but continued an unfortunate trend. In the past four races, Hamlin has started inside the top eight every time and has finished 20th or worse every time.
Quotable: Hamlin was unavailable for comment.
His standing: Hamlin is 26th in the standings with 485 points.
Outlook: Obviously, Hamlin would rather be in the Chase than out of it. But the lone positive to not qualifying for the postseason is that the No. 11 team can try some new, out-of-the-box setups in the final 10 races. The Generation-6 car has been a difficult adjustment for Hamlin, so the lessened implications down the home stretch may be a blessing in disguise.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Not only is Logano in his first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but he’s the only Penske Racing driver in the postseason. Yes, that means Brad Keselowski is not eligible to defend his championship. Logano finished 22nd at Richmond, and was lucky to do that. He took the wave-around on the final caution to get back on the lead lap, and then made two critical passes before the checkered flag fell. Finishing 10th in the regular-season standings means Logano gets three bonus points for his win at Michigan. He is seeded sixth in the 12-driver postseason.
Quotable: “It’s unfortunate that Brad missed the Chase. Obviously, our goal tonight was to get both Penske cars in the Chase. We got one in. Brad is a champion no matter what you say. He won the championship last year. He still will be out there in contention to win races. I'm sure he'll win some races before the year is out. At the same time we can use him as a teammate right now to try some things, try to improve what we got. That's what we do now. Nothing is going to change because of this.”
His standing: Logano is sixth in the standings with 2,003 points.
Outlook: The 23-year-old has as good a shot as anyone to win the championship, although he trails top-seeded Matt Kenseth by 12 points. Before his Richmond finish, Logano had logged six consecutive top-eight finishes.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick struggled at Richmond with a car that didn’t have the speed or setup she wanted. She finished 30th in her 36th career Sprint Cup start.
Quotable: “It just wasn’t our night. We just didn’t get it right. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the GoDaddy guys never gave up and worked hard all weekend. There are nights that you just know it’s not going to go your way, and this was one of those nights. We’ve been making gains in recent weeks, but tonight was tough. The important thing is for me and the guys to forget about it and move onto Chicago and look to get better.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 459 points.
Outlook: Chicagoland is a homecoming of sorts for Patrick, who grew up in Roscoe, Ill., rooting for Chicago sports teams. She finished 25th at the track last year.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his fifth consecutive race this past weekend and watched Mark Martin piloted his No. 14 Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won’t return in 2013. He returned to the track, though, in a motorized scooter and contributed as best he could.
His standing: Stewart is 23rd in the standings with 594 points.