Logano bags another top-five; Biffle finishes ninth again
For the third consecutive week Joey Logano paced the Coca-Cola Racing Family.
The 23-year-old, in his first year with Penske Racing, finished fifth under the lights at the .533-mile oval. It was his second consecutive top-five finish, and his fifth consecutive top-10 finish.
Logano also moved up to 10th place in the standings. If the season ended today, the Coca-Cola Racing Family would have three drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Bristol:
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: One week after his breakthrough win at Michigan, Logano drove to another top-five finish at Bristol in what may have been his best showing of the season. As a result, the young driver of the No. 22 Ford leapt into the top 10 in the points standings, which is a necessity for earning an automatic berth into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Logano got into a wreck early, and then was boxed in by Denny Hamlin on pit road, but rallied to finish fifth.
Quotable: “You have to look at all the races beforehand. We have plenty of races that we could say where we lost it, but we definitely have a lot in the bank that we’ve made up and I’m really proud of this team. If you told me we would have finished fifth after about 150 laps into this thing I would have taken it. It just goes to show that these guys never quit.”
His standing: Logano is 10th in the standings with 685 points.
Outlook: No driver may be as hot as Logano right now, but his postseason future isn’t locked. One slip-up -- or another cut tire -- would undo the good things Logano has done over the past two months.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Nine is a good number for Biffle. The driver of the No. 16 Ford finished ninth for the second consecutive week. Doing so also boosted Biffle to ninth in the points standings. That extra breathing room for being in the top 10 is critical with just two races to go before the Chase field is set. The key at Bristol last week was avoiding the numerous incidents and staying off the wall. Biffle executed that perfectly, and gained 20 spots after starting 29th on the grid.
Quotable: “To be honest with you, we weren’t all that great right off the truck. We were a little bit tight and I had to drive the heck out of it and run it right on the edge to get any speed out of it. Things worked out for a top-10 and some of the guys we were racing had trouble too, so it will probably end up being OK for us.”
His standing: Biffle is ninth in the standings with 698 points.
Outlook: Biffle hasn’t won in Atlanta, but half of his 18 starts have ended in a top-10 finish. Another one of those would be just fine for the veteran, who has finished outside the top 10 in the past three races at the 1.5-mile oval.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman couldn’t avoid an eight-car wreck on Lap 447, and his No. 39 Chevy took some damage. It didn’t wreck his night, though. The car got back on the track to turn some crucial laps and finish 21st, three laps back. As it turned out, several drivers on the Chase bubble were involved in that wreck as well. So Newman didn’t have a great day, and he didn’t gain any points in the standings, but he has one of two Wild Card entries into the postseason heading to Atlanta.
Quotable: “The car was an absolute handful for the final 50 laps. But the guys worked fast to make the repairs we needed to get back out there. At a place like Bristol, you don’t have a ton of time because the laps go by so fast. If you’re sitting on pit road getting work done, you’re losing about four laps a minute. So, their hard work paid off because we were able to stay on the lead lap to that point. With the point battle being what it is, every single point is so important. We need to score maximum points at each race. Even on nights like these, it’s important that we don’t give up. We’ll keep fighting until the final lap at Richmond.”
His standing: Newman is 15th in the standings with 659 points.
Outlook: Atlanta Motor Speedway is known for being fast, and that suits the “Rocketman” just fine. In fact, of Newman’s 50 career Coors Light Pole Awards, seven have come at Atlanta.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: In Patrick’s 34th career Cup race -- and third at Bristol -- she ran well through the first 100 laps before getting into the wall in Turn 3. The damage on the right side of her No. 10 Chevrolet necessitated two trips down pit road (one under caution) and caused her to lose valuable ground. She finished 26th.
Quotable: “Overall, I would honestly say we are still on a good streak of running strong. There is nothing you can do about getting into the wall and having damage. We came back as best as we could and made the car as good as it was at the end. That is a positive. My goal, honestly, in my mind is like, ‘Man, if we can come away with a top-30 with having these problems, then that is all right,’ and we finished 26th through attrition and staying out of trouble. We will take it and move on.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 436 points.
Outlook: Patrick has just one race at Atlanta in her past, a 29th-place effort in 2012 as she ended the year driving Cup races.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin won his fourth Coors Light Pole of the season prior to the Irwin Tools Night Race, but it didn’t result in a top-10 finish. Hamlin hasn’t had one of those since Dover (June 2). Instead, the driver’s night ended with Kevin Harvick annoyed following an eight-car wreck in which Hamlin -- with a cut tire -- caused the wreckage, through no fault of his own.
What he said: “(Harvick) was under the impression I caused it, but I didn’t. Luckily, we were able to talk right away and hash it out. The 55 (of Brian Vickers) just cut down on us right in the middle of the straightaway and it cut my right-front tire. Obviously, I’m in the car and just a steering-wheel holder at that point. Went dead straight and caused a huge accident.”
His standing: Hamlin is 25th in the standings with 456 points.
Outlook: Hamlin is the defending race winner at Atlanta, and he has two consecutive top-10s. The No. 11 team will likely be searching for things to help them for 2014, since the Chase is out of reach.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his third consecutive race this past weekend. He chimed in on the radio as Mark Martin piloted his No. 14 Chevrolet to a 20th-place finish. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won’t return in 2013.
His standing: Stewart is 19th in the standings with 594 points.