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Coca-Cola drivers end on a high note

November 19, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Coca-Cola drivers end on a high note
Newman, Biffle among top-five finishers; six others place in top 25 at Homestead

All eight Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers finished in the top 25 at Homestead, rising toward the front of the field in the last race of the season.

Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle paced the contour bottle bunch with top-fives.

Biffle passed Denny Hamlin on the final day to win the virtual season points championship among the Coca-Cola family drivers.

Ryan Newman

Homestead finish: Third

Season finish: 14th

Newman nabbed his best finish at Homestead, topping a sixth in 2002, and rallied to end the season with four top-12 results.

What he said: "I'm just proud of the guys. We had a horrible short-run car, but we had an awesome long-run car. We wanted to finish on a great note. We're just happy we can end the season on a good note and go into the offseason and build momentum for 2013."

Greg Biffle

Homestead finish: Fifth

Season finish: Fifth

Biffle was one of three Coca-Cola drivers who had to start at the rear of the field after they tangled in a practice crash. But the three-time Homestead winner zoomed through the field and gambled on fuel mileage for his sixth top-10 in the season's final seven races.

What he said: "We certainly could have been better, but it was a rough weekend for us. I crashed our primary car, but I kept it out of the fence all day. We stayed after it, and the car definitely got better at the end. ... This was our first year as a full team and I'm happy for [crew chief] Matt Puccia to make the Chase and finish fifth. On the other hand, it's a little disappointing that we didn't win the title or get closer than we did, so it's kind of bittersweet."

Joey Logano

Homestead finish: 14th

Season finish: 17th

Logano got his best career Homestead finish despite having to start at the rear of the field after his primary car was lost in a practice crash. He had won the pole, his second of the season. Logano finished the season with eight top-20s in the final 10 races.

Tony Stewart

Homestead finish: 17th

Season finish: Ninth

Stewart turned his worst qualifying run at Homestead (35th) into his ninth top-20 finish in the past 11 races. Like other, he bullied through his car's poor handling at times. The three-time series champion has finished outside the top-20 just twice in 14 career races at the track.

What he said: "We just never got the balance of the car right. Loose on exit. Tight in the center. That was the story of our day."

Jeff Burton

Homestead finish: 19th

Season finish: 19th

Burton ended the season with a trio of top-20 finishes -- something he had not done since late May. Like other Coca-Cola drivers, he started from the rear of the field and moved toward the front to earn a good result. He did this battling a loose race car.

What he tweeted: "Thanks to all of my team members for a great effort this year. We didn't get results but not because of a lack of effort."

Jamie McMurray

Homestead finish: 20th

Season finish: 21st

McMurray battled an ill-handling car but still managed to get his fifth top-20 in the past six races.

What he said: "We had a pretty good car [Sunday], we just battled with the car being really loose on entry and tight through the middle most of the race. Our last fuel run, we saved some fuel and managed to pick up a few positions in the closing laps. We look forward to enjoying a few days off, and then we will be right back to work focusing on having a strong 2013."

Denny Hamlin

Homestead finish: 24th

Season finish: Sixth

Hamlin was the third of the Coca-Cola involved in the practice wreck, though he already had qualified 41st. Still, he managed to speed through the field and spend some time inside the top 20 despite having a car he described as a handful to his crew chief.

What he tweeted: "Man I wanted to end on a better note than that. We just missed it [Sunday]. Thanks to all of my team for a good year."

Bobby Labonte

Homestead finish: 25th

Season finish: 23rd

Labonte managed to get nine top-25s in the season's last 13 races.

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