Biffle places in top 10; Logano keeps hot streak going
For the second consecutive week, Greg Biffle led the way for the Coca-Cola Racing Family.
Coming off his first win of the season at Michigan International Speedway, Biffle placed eighth at Sonoma Raceway, his third top-10 in the past four years at the 1.99-mile road course.
In just two weeks, Biffle has gone from out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup to sixth place in the points standings.
No other driver from the Coca-Cola Racing Family joined Biffle in the top 10, but Joey Logano was closest. He finished 11th and is still very much in the hunt for one of two Wild-Card entries.
Ryan Newman finished 15th.
A roundup of the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Sonoma:
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: It’s time to start looking at Biffle as more than just a guy who excels on the 1.5- and 2-mile tracks that populate the circuit. Sonoma’s showing proved that this is one versatile veteran. Although his performance on short tracks this year hasn’t been the best, Biffle looks like a threat to finish in the top-five every week.
Quotable: “It was a great day. We could have been a little bit better, but I’m happy with a top-10. Our pit strategy didn’t go our way, but it was close. We wanted to stay on the track all day because we knew that would lead to a good finish and that’s what we did. We’re pretty happy with it.”
His standing: Biffle is sixth in the standings with 479 points.
Outlook: Biffle doesn’t have a great history at Kentucky Speedway, but it’s difficult to judge his performance because there have only been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Biffle’s banked win and recent strong showings gives him some cushion to fall back on if he has another less-than-stellar showing.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Logano wasn’t too disappointed that his streak of five consecutive top-10s ended at Sonoma. That’s because Logano finished 11th at the tricky 1.99-mile road course, then stated that his streak of top-11 finishes was at six. Logano is in 14th place in the standings, and he’s off the radar. But he shouldn’t be. Not including the 25-point penalty he incurred after his car failed inspection earlier this year, Logano would be in eighth place in the points standings. Of course, the penalty happened, so the driver of the No. 22 Ford needs to keep it up -- and possibly win a race.
Quotable: “It was eventful. I was kind of disappointed at the beginning of the race because we were going backwards in a hurry. I couldn’t get into the corner and couldn’t get off the corner. We just had some braking issues and some chassis setup stuff for the exit, but the guys did a good job. They got the car better. We never had enough speed, so we really just focused on making sure we had some tires at the end because I had about 20 laps of good in it and then it hit a light switch and I’d go backwards in a hurry. We made sure we had something at the end because we knew we weren’t good on the long runs, so we put tires on it and tried to forge our way forward. We came up 11th -- just a little bit short for our goal to get through today with a solid top-10, but from where we started today it was a good finish for us, but it’s never good enough.”
His standing: Logano is 14th in the standings with 439 points.
Outlook: On 1.5-mile tracks this year, Logano’s best showings are Charlotte (fifth), Texas (fifth) Las Vegas (12th). He could be in line for another good week at 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman’s been around long enough to have several Sonoma starts under his belt. His streak of finishing outside the top 10 continued, though, at a track where he hasn’t finished better than 15th since 2008. The small positive outlook from that is Newman’s 15th-place finish came Sunday.
Quotable: “I just couldn’t drive the way I needed to. We didn’t have the best Haas Automation Chevy this weekend, but the guys worked hard and definitely made it better for the race today. We just would have liked to have made it even better.”
His standing: Newman is 18th in the standings with 418 points.
Outlook: Just 10 races remain until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. Due to Martin Truex Jr. winning at Sonoma, Newman needs a win and several strong showings over the remainder of the season to have a shot.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin ran in the top-10, but his outside chance of pulling off the win unspun when he was, well, spun into the grass by fellow Coca-Cola Racing Family driver Tony Stewart. Hamlin said he knew it wasn’t intentional, and he still managed to finish ahead of Stewart in 23rd place. Still, the driver is dejected. His Chase chances are still flickering, but it’s getting darker by the day.
Quotable: “I said before the weekend started, I get run over and spun every year. Tony was just the guy today. He didn’t do it on purpose. We were trying to pass someone, that’s it. We need a lot of help and a lot of stuff to go our way, honestly. But we’re not running as strong as the Chase guys right now so you’ve got to earn it. You can’t just expect other guys to make mistakes.”
His standing: Hamlin is 25th in the standings with 320 points.
Outlook: Perhaps a trip to the Bluegrass State will help Hamlin gets over his blues. With not much historical data on which to rely, anybody could win Saturday night’s event. If Hamlin pulls through, he’d get a chance to re-look at the points standings and figure out what it might take to get him in the top 20.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: For the first time in more than a month, Stewart had a bad result at a race. The driver had climbed his way into the top 10 with consecutive finishes of seventh, first, fourth and fifth. At the 1.99-mile Sonoma road course, Stewart was involved in a number of scrapes, but he got the better of almost all of them. Almost. At the end of the event, Stewart and Jeff Burton got tangled, and the resulting wreck moved Stewart from inside the top 10 to 15th in the standings.
Quotable: “Just too many mistakes today.”
His standing: Stewart is 15th in the standings with 433 points.
Outlook: Now is not the time for Stewart to stew. He still has a spot in the Chase, but if Martin Truex Jr. slips out of the top 10 and Kasey Kahne stays outside the top 10, both would almost certainly rank higher than Stewart in the standings. That means Stewart’s Chase chances, so certain even a week ago, are still up in the air.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick’s first foray to a road course in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was frustrating, as it so often is for first-timers. The driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing finished 29th, gaining two positions from her starting point. She went off the road twice, including on Lap 64 with a cut tire and hit the tire barrier, bringing moderate damage to her car.
Quotable: “It was a long day -- a long weekend. We just couldn’t get the car to the point where I was comfortable with it. It’s disappointing because I know the GoDaddy guys worked really hard all weekend. We just couldn’t get much to go our way this weekend. Having the cut tire and going into the tire barrier was just sort of salt in the wound. Hopefully we have a better weekend next week at Kentucky.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 292 points.
Outlook: Don't be surprised if Patrick pulls out a solid showing at Kentucky. One of the biggest hindrances for her this year is that other drivers have so much more experience on these tracks than her. Given that this is the third Cup race at Kentucky, that gap of information isn't nearly as wide this week.