Stewart paces Coca-Cola Racing Family at Dover
June 03, 2013, NASCAR.com
Veteran driver wins first race of season; Logano also in top 10
From an outcast to inclusion into the NASCAR postseason, it’s been a busy two weeks for Tony Stewart.
In the midst of a season-long slump, the veteran driver thundered past Juan Pablo Montoya in the waning laps Sunday at Dover International Speedway to win the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks, his first victory of the year. Two weeks ago, Stewart wasn’t even eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the sport’s 10-week postseason.
Now, Stewart is 16th in the standings but has a firm hold on one of two Wild Card entries due to Sunday’s victory.
Joey Logano continued his impressive showing of late with a top-10 finish, taking seventh at the one-mile track. Greg Biffle finished 15th.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family:
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart was coming off a seventh-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, which was his best of the season. His best until Sunday, at least. In his No. 14 Chevrolet, the veteran led only three laps at Dover, but they were the final three. ‘Smoke’ did the traditional burnout celebration before making his way to Victory Lane for the 48th time at NASCAR’s highest level. In 21st place one week ago in the standings, he now owns one of two Wild Card entries to NASCAR’s postseason.
Quotable: “Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve had a good day here. Honestly, we tested here, which I thought would be an advantage coming here. And (Saturday), we took two steps backward -- it didn’t seem like we were much better. But I’m so proud of all of our guys and our engineers. They worked hard late into the night and never gave up. They kept working (Sunday). It’s pretty cool. Just, everybody has dug deep to help us to get back to where we are today.”
His standing: Stewart is 16th in the standings with 338 points.
Outlook: He has a victory, but Tony Stewart can’t relax. Five Wild-Card eligible drivers are ahead of him in the points standings, and all would take Stewart’s postseason spot away with a victory over the next few races. Still, Stewart has to feel confident heading into Pocono, where has two victories in his career and four top-five finishes in the past six races there.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Logano loves Dover, and perhaps that good feeling brought on a bit of luck last week. Logano placed seventh at the one-mile track, but he was in danger of finishing outside the top 15 for most of the day. Driving the No. 22 Ford, Logano started ninth but dropped way down the field following a flat tire. His lucky break came during a caution on Lap 318, in which Logano was the beneficiary and back on the lead lap. He sprinted through the field late, gaining five spots in the final 20 laps.
Quotable: “We fought all day basically trying to get (back) after that flat tire. We were basically trying to get three laps back for the most part. I was just proud of the effort of my guys today. This weekend I thought we were going to finish about 15 laps down today. We weren’t any good in practice and Todd and all the guys did a good job making it better for me. By the end it was a top-five car and we just ran out of time. We were trying to pass as many as I could during the restart but it was so aero tight behind these cars. I feel like that we could have finished in the top-five but considering where we were, we will take that all day.”
His standing: Logano is 18th in the standings with 335 points.
Outlook: Logano is 18th in the standings, but he’s bunched up tightly with a few other drivers. Sixteenth-place Tony Stewart has just three points on Logano, and 14th-place Martin Truex Jr. is just eight points ahead. And now Logano returns to a track where he also will have warm feelings -- Pocono Raceway, site of Logano’s second career victory in 2012.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Although he doesn’t have much to show for it, Biffle’s team showed great resiliency. His No. 16 Ford was all over the track, but Biffle got back on the lead with a more-than-OK car in the waning laps. The adjustments throughout the race allowed Biffle to finish 15th heading into Pocono.
Quotable: “Another long day, but we didn't give up and finished 15th thanks to all my guys hard work.”
His standing: Biffle is 13th in the standings with 353 points.
Outlook: Biffle has finished outside the top 10 for six consecutive races, but at least he’s finishing. Those finishing points (and no DNFs) are starting to add up, and the veteran driver is a top-five away from being back in the Chase field. Ten races remain before the postseason field is set, so he still has time.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: As has been the case for most of the season, there were good things and bad things to take away from Patrick’s day. The bad is that Patrick was involved in a scrape early with David Stremme and was forced to pit out of turn, going down three laps. The good is that, by the end of the race, her lap times were as good as the drivers in the top 10. All in all, not a bad showing for her first time at Dover, and Patrick watched team owner Tony Stewart take the checkered flag.
Quotable: “I definitely didn’t make our day start off right by getting into the 30 in (turns) three and four and getting a cut tire. We were only 30 or so laps into the run, so we really were three laps down from the get-go. It made for a long day, but it didn’t mean that the GoDaddy team gave up. We still salvaged points, of course. That’s what we have to keep doing -- learning and finishing all of these races so I can get better.”
Her standing: Patrick is 29th in the standings with 231 points.
Outlook: Patrick has no experience at Pocono, the two-mile track known as the Tricky Triangle.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: For the first time since his full-time return from a back injury, Hamlin took one step backward. With only 13 races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set, it was a major downer for the No. 11 team to finish 34th after a flat tire sent the driver into the wall.
Quotable: Hamlin was not available for comment.
His standing: Hamlin is 26th in the standings with 238 points.
Outlook: Pocono is one of Hamlin’s best tracks, considering the driver has four wins in 14 starts there. And a fifth victory would be a crucial step in getting Hamlin, who missed time earlier this season with an injury, back into Chase contention. At this point, after dropping two spots following an 11-point day, it’s looking more and more like Hamlin will need at least two wins this year to qualify for the postseason.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman couldn’t keep his streak of good runs intact at Dover. A power-steering issue caused him to drop quickly from his starting position of fifth place, and he later wrecked with David Gilliland. All told, Newman finished 298 of 400 laps and earned eight points on the day with his 36th-place showing.
Quotable: Newman was not available for comment after the race.
His standing: Newman is 20th in the standings with 323 points.
Outlook: A loss at this point means Newman needs to start earning wins, not top-fives. Still, he’s 20 points behind 15th-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and consecutive strong showings would get him back into the Chase conversation.
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