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Six pack of drivers in top 20

May 01, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Stewart finishes third, leads Coca-Cola Family at Richmond

A late yellow flag at Richmond International Raceway denied the Coca-Cola Family a seventh victory of the season, but the red-and-white gang landed six drivers in the top 20.

Tony Stewart was stretching his lead before a caution for debris came out with 12 laps remaining. He lost position after being beaten out of the pits.

Smoke finished third, just ahead of Coca-Cola counterpart Denny Hamlin. Meanwhile, Greg Biffle's reign atop the standings stands at seven straight race weeks.

Tony Stewart

Richmond finish: Third

Season standings: Eighth

Stewart has 18 top-10 finishes at Richmond, tied for the most at one track with Michigan and Pocono. Despite starting 22nd, he earned his first top-10 finish since April 1 by leading 113 of the final 149 laps. With the fastest car late in the runs, Stewart built a 2-second lead before the final caution. Stewart remains eighth in the standings heading into Talladega -- a track where he has an average finish of 21st during the past four seasons despite netting a win.

What he said: "That's the best car I've had here at Richmond in a long, long time. It was something I felt really comfortable with [Saturday]. It was good right off the bat, and I'm proud of [crew chief] Steve Addington. He just kept making it better and better and better. We were where we needed to be at the end of the day. This is my favorite track, so it feels good to be running well here at Richmond again."

Denny Hamlin

Richmond finish: Fourth

Season standings: Third

Hamlin has finished 12th or better in his past five races and has not come home worse than 11th in his past six races at Richmond. He has collected 21 top-10 finishes in 27 career races at his home-state tracks of Martinsville and Richmond. After his fifth consecutive top-13 qualifying run, Hamlin spent one lap outside the top 15 on Saturday and gained two positions in the final 40 laps. The solid finish boosted him two spots in the standings. He has the second-highest average finish (14.6) among drivers who have started the past five spring Talladega races.

What he said: "We just never really hit it [Saturday]. We had times where we were competitive and we just got behind on one run. We were extremely loose and just fell outside the top 10, and it's so hard to get that track position back. And we just couldn't do it, but our FedEx team did a good job getting us back to the top five. That was important and obviously a good points day. We come here to win. At this point, nothing will suit us but a win."

Jamie McMurray

Richmond finish: 14th

Season standings: 18th

McMurray continues to show speed on race day. For the second week in a row, he turned a bad qualifying run (a season-worst 37th) into a 14th-place finish. He gained 15 spots in the opening 100 laps and powered from 19th to a race-high 14th in the final 20. McMurray grabbed his fifth top-15 finish in the past seven races and gained a spot in the standings. He has enjoyed success in the Talladega spring race with five top fives in nine career starts.

What he said: "We had to overcome a bad qualifying effort to make up some ground [Saturday], but our McDonald's team worked hard to make solid adjustments on our car. We are glad to have another top-15 finish."

Ryan Newman

Richmond finish: 15th

Season standings: 10th

Newman scored his best finish since winning at Martinsville on a night where adjustments could not make his car a top-10 contender. His Chevy was loose coming in and out of the corners and was tight in the center. Still, he notched his sixth top-15 in his past seven races at Richmond and remained 10th in the standings. Like his teammate Stewart, Newman is looking for some new luck at Talladega, where he has averaged a next-to-last 26.4 finish among drivers who have competed in all eight races during the past four years.

What he said: "I think we had a pretty good Army Reserve Chevrolet. We just couldn't quite get it to the point where we could roll the center of the corner well enough to compete with the top-10 guys. (Crew chief) Tony Gibson and the Army guys did all they could. ... It wasn't the finish we were hoping for. We'll come back stronger next week."

Bobby Labonte

Richmond finish: 17th

Season standings: 27th

Labonte matched his best finish during the past seven races and posted his best result at Richmond in four years. Starting 19th, he slid back before cruising into the top 15 by midrace. Labonte got caught two laps down when the yellow flag came out after a green-flag pit stop, though he recovered some track position. His 77 green-flag passes were fourth best in the race. Labonte remains 27th in points before heading to Talladega, where he has fared better in the fall race than in spring in recent years.

What he said: "Everyone did a really good job [Saturday]. We're making progress."

Greg Biffle

Richmond finish: 18th

Season standings: First

Biffle is human. He finished outside the top 15 for the first time this season after starting a 2012-worst 28th. The handling problems that damaged his qualifying run continued during the race. While he never dropped below 29th, Richmond was the first race of the season where he failed to get a lap inside the top 10. He had one lap in the top 15 after spending 75 percent of his first eight races among the leaders. Biffle has the second-best average finish (13.8) among drivers who have competed in the past eight races at Talladega.

What he said: "It was a tough night. We never recovered from our poor qualifying run and struggled with turn and forward drive. The same things I struggled with qualifying to be quite honest with you. I don't know what it was. It would run like Jack the bear sometimes and then sometimes it wouldn't. I don't know. It is frustrating."

Joey Logano

Richmond finish: 24th

Season standings: 15th

Logano still is searching for the mojo that started his season. After a pair of top 10s, he has one top-15 finish in his past seven races and sank further outside the Chase after losing three series points positions on Saturday. After starting 18th, the car was tight throughout the night, and he fell back 11 places within the first 100 laps. Logano received an early lucky dog to gain back a lost lap, but he could not keep his spot. He has two top-10s in three spring Talladega races.

What he said: "Needless to say, this was not the kind of night we wanted with the Home Depot Toyota. I don't know if there was something wrong with the car or what, but we kept freeing it up and freeing it up all night long, and it really made no difference. With the adjustments that we made, I should have been spinning out every corner, but the car was plowing tight all night long. It just never got better. ... We just have to put this behind us and head on to Talladega and try to claw our way back into the points standings."

Jeff Burton

Richmond finish: 31st

Season standings: 20th

Richmond is normally one of Burton's better tracks. But he finished outside the top 30 for just the third time during the past decade, even after gaining 19 spots from a 30th-place qualifying run. After a pit stop with less than 100 laps to go, his car smacked into the Turn 3 wall to spoil what would have been his first top 15 since mid-March. Burton struggled through the rest of the race after making several pit stops and lost three spots in the standings. Talladega could help: He has four top-10 finishes there in the past four years.

What he said: "I still don't know what happened to the car after that pit stop, if something broke on the car or we had a cut tire, but I'm upset that it spoiled our strong run. The green-flag run we had going before the wreck was easily the best my BB&T Chevrolet had handled all night. We had a top-15 run going, and I am confident we would've made it into the top 10 had the incident not happened."

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