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Pair of top-fives in the 600

May 28, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Biffle dominates early, Hamlin comes on late in NASCAR's longest race

In the fastest Coca-Cola 600 ever, Denny Hamlin paced the Coca-Cola Racing Family at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but points leader Greg Biffle was the race's most dominant driver.

Hamlin finished second, while Biffle -- the race's lap leader -- came home fourth in the season's longest-distance event.

Another pair of the red-and-white bunch -- Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton -- finished among the top 20.

Denny Hamlin

Coca-Cola 600 finish: Second

Season Standings: Third

Hamlin scored his fourth top-four finish in his past five races by taking a chance with about 80 laps remaining. He did not head to the pits and gained track position. He held the lead for 12 laps before getting passed by eventual race winner Kasey Kahne. His pit crew -- which was the fastest on the night -- kept him in second on the final stop and Hamlin appeared to be catching Kahne early in the run. But Hamlin had to settle for the runner-up spot -- his fourth consecutive top-10 at Charlotte. Hamlin's latest outing pushed him up a position in the points standings to third place.

What he said: "Just used all my tires up trying to get to [Kahne]. I was driving with my eyes out and my hair on fire for 20 laps on that restart trying to catch him. ... We're going to hold our heads high. We have a lot of stuff that we learned with our race cars. We're definitely making strides in the right direction. There's nothing we did wrong, we just got beat by a better car."

Greg Biffle

Coca-Cola 600 finish: Fourth

Season standings: First

Biffle did everything right. He was the only driver among the top 15 for all 400 laps. He led more than half the laps. He ran on average in second place. But as the evening sky darkened, so did his chances for a win. The handling on Biffle's car gave way just enough in the cooler air that he could not get back to the lead he gripped for much of the race. Still, he managed his best finish at the 600 in four years and remains atop the season standings for a 10th consecutive race week.

What he said: "I couldn't do anything wrong, and I felt like we kept up with the track, but there at the end when the speeds picked up we would kind of slide across the track and couldn't get a hold of it. ...I can't believe how fast we were, but the guys did a great job. We gained a little in points, but we really wanted to win."

Ryan Newman

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 14th

Season standings: 13th

Newman notched his best finish since winning at Martinsville nearly two months ago despite struggling with an ill-handling car during the 600. He hovered in the low- to mid-teens for much of the race. Adjustments by his pit crew were enough to hold him in place but not enough to crack into the top 10. Newman remains in the final wild card position for the Chase.

What he said: "It was a pretty tough race. It seemed we just couldn't get a handle on the race car. We made numerous adjustments on every pit stop, but all we were able to do was just maintain. All things considered, to come away with a top-15 was not that bad. I wish we could've gotten it driving better. I really thought we might eventually have something for those guys up front. We kept digging deep, but it was like we were running in place in terms of positioning."

Jeff Burton

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 19th

Season standings: 17th

Burton came away from Charlotte pleased to see he had a car with top-five speed for a good part of the event. He battled through an ill-handling car before his racer sprang to life as the evening set in. Burton mingled in and out of the top 20 for much of the event before he had to pit late with a tire issue. He gained a race-best eight positions in the final 40 laps for his best 600 finish in four years and his third consecutive top-20 run in May. Burton stayed 17th in the points.

What he said: "I know the finish doesn't show it, but we made huge strides with our 1.5-mile program [Sunday]. We had a top-15, maybe even top-10 race car at the end, but that tire issue pinned us down a couple laps. While I am disappointed about the random issue, I am very proud of the No. 31 crew. We are working hard and slowly getting where we need to be week-in and week-out."

Jamie McMurray

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 21st

Season standings: 21st

McMurray seemed to have a shot at times in Charlotte to continue Chip Ganassi's successful Sunday after his team owner won the Indianapolis 500. McMurray stormed into the top-five within 120 laps after starting 31st. He fell back after a pitroad mishap that forced him to make an additional stop. McMurray clawed his way back nearly into the top 10 but lost ground in the race's final laps. He dropped a spot in the season standings.

What he said: "Our Chevrolet started out really strong. We raced our way to the front and had a strong car; however having to make an extra stop really took us out of contention with the long green flag runs and not being able to take advantage of any cautions. We really wanted to try and give Chip another win [Sunday]."

Joey Logano

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 23rd

Season standings: 16th

A tight-handling car led to Logano's worst-ever finish at Charlotte. After some adjustments and temperatures cooled with the setting sun, his racer improved on long runs but he was laps behind by the time the car improved. He broke into the top 20 with 40 laps to go but finished just outside at 23rd. Logano slipped another position in the points standings.

What he said: "This is a fast track and when you don't have the speed off, you get behind quick. We got back there early and just never were able to get that back. Once again, I felt like we had the car better and we got a better handle on it after the sun went down, but with these long green flag runs and going a couple of laps down early, you just don't have the chance to get back on the lead lap. It was really a frustrating night because I love Charlotte."

Tony Stewart

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 25th

Season standings: Ninth

Bothered with a poor handling car and smacked in the pits, Stewart has not finished this poorly in 19 races since last October at Dover and has not come home this low at Charlotte since 2006. Early on, his team spent each pit stop trying to find the right fix for the car. He made up a lost lap about one-third through the race and reached 15th shortly after the midway point. The next pit stop proved costly, however, when Stewart collided with Brad Keselowski. Stewart was forced to spin his car around to get into the pit stall, but he fell two laps down and out of contention.

Bobby Labonte

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 28th

Season standings: 27th

Labonte, who fans voted into the All-Star Race, could not catch a break at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks in a row. After starting 26th, the handling on Labonte's car made navigating the 1.5-mile track difficult. Labonte's crew worked to make changes. He started too tight. Then he became too loose. And then he reported his No. 47 being a little of both. Labonte remains 27th in points.

Danica Patrick

Coca-Cola 600 finish: 30th

Season standings: 59th

Patrick qualified 40th in her third-ever appearance in NASCAR's top series and spent much of the race about 10 spots above her starting place. She got as high as 26th, a day after finishing 13th in the Nationwide race. Like at Darlington, Patrick was happy to run a clean race and gain experience as part of her 10-race trial run in the Sprint Cup events this season.

What she said: "We had a lot of green-flag running and ... as a new driver in the Cup Series, that hurts me. I'm just not great at making the best out of a car that's not perfect, and those long runs really show that. But that's what you get in Cup. I would've liked to have been a little faster overall, but I think there were some times in there when it was decent. It was kind of like Darlington [where] there was a certain run or two that felt really good and everything else, you're just kind of like, 'Let's work on this and let's work on that.' "

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