Coca-Cola Racing Family roundup: Atlanta
September 02, 2013, NASCAR.com
For the fourth consecutive week Joey Logano paced the Coca-Cola Racing Family.
The 23-year-old recorded his third consecutive top-five finish and moved closer to locking up a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his runner-up showing at Atlanta, a race in which the No. 22 Ford led a race-high 78 laps.
The finish vaulted Logano to eighth place in the standings. If the season ended today, the Coca-Cola Racing Family would have two drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Atlanta:
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Logano’s summer surge has him on the brink of his first-ever Chase. This seemed unthinkable twice during the year, once after a 25-point penalty following the race at Texas, and then again after consecutive 40th-place finishes late in the season. But this team has been one of the best on the circuit in recent weeks and currently has an automatic berth in the Chase, with a win to fall back on should the group slip out of the top 10 in the standings following the regular-season finale at Richmond.
Quotable: “That’s three straight top-fives with this car, though, and that’s impressive. We’ll take that and it was a big points day for us for Richmond next week, so we have nothing to hold our heads down about, but, at the same time, I’m mad at myself on that one restart when we started third. I was a little too close to Kyle and when he spun his tires I had to check up not to hit him, and I can’t pass him before the start/finish line, so I gave the 56 a big run and he got underneath me. Then you get shuffled out to the back and it’s just a cluster after that, but it was a hard-fought day. The guys did great. Second sucks, but we can’t be too mad about it.”
His standing: Logano is eighth in the standings with 729 points.
Outlook: Logano isn’t quite locked into the Chase, but it’s close. Even a rotten day at Atlanta might not be enough to keep Logano from the postseason, because the 22 team has a win to fall back on. That would all be a moot point, however, if Logano keeps running like he has been the past month.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman finished fifth in Atlanta, giving the Coca-Cola Racing Family two drivers in the top five. And even with that, he fell out of the Chase field because Kasey Kahne (with two victories this season) fell out and therefore gobbled up one of the two Wild Card spots. Newman led three laps on the night. The veteran lost some ground over the final restarts.
Quotable: ““Oh, I just told (Kurt Busch) I’m glad I’m not the only one that can’t restart on the outside there. I don’t know what the deal is but there’s no grip on the straightaway. I don’t know if it’s rubber on the race track or what, but you did not want to be on the outside on a restart. And I was and he wasn’t and it didn’t work for either of us.”
His standing: Newman is 14th in the standings with 699 points.
Outlook: Newman finished 15th in the first race at Richmond, and that kind of effort won’t be good enough to get into the postseason on Saturday. Newman’s best chance is for a good, solid finish and watch Kasey Kahne climb into the top 10, and Kurt Busch fall out. That would likely be enough to give Newman the second of two Wild Card berths.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Biffle wasn’t outstanding at Atlanta, but he finished 15th after starting 24th and remained ninth in the standings. He has a an eight-point edge over 10th-place Kurt Busch and an 14-point edge over 11th-place Jeff Gordon with one race until the Chase field is set.
His standing: Biffle is ninth in the standings with 727 points.
Outlook: Biffle, like Logano, is in the top 10 but has a win to fall back on should things go sour at Richmond. And they might, considering the No. 16 finished 36th there earlier this season.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick showed some serious growth at Atlanta, a fast race track in which she has some experience given her 2012 start there. Danica started 21st and finished 21st, an eight-spot improvement from her effort in 2012.
Quotable: “I’m proud of the GoDaddy guys. We weren’t good in the first practice. (Crew chief) Tony Gibson and the guys worked really hard, and we qualified well and then continued to get better throughout the weekend. It was a good race for us. It was a little tight at the end, but overall, we improved, and I think we’ve gotten better the last few races. The pit crew was really good, and they were quick on each stop. I’m happy with how we ran. Obviously, you always want to do better than you finish, but it’s like we’ve said all year, it’s about making little gains and getting better as we go along.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 459 points.
Outlook: Earlier this year at Richmond, Patrick finished 29th, four laps down.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin’s miserable season continued at Atlanta, where he had to go to the back of the field before the race started due to an engine change. Then he was penalized for hanging out of his pit box while his team finished repairs, and on Lap 206 (of 325), the No. 11 was spun out thanks to a bump from Paul Menard. He finished 38th.
Quotable: “The motor finished us off, but we -- I don’t know what we’ve got to do, but we can’t seem to finish a race. Our night was ruined because of a penalty putting us two laps down and putting us in a box there that we couldn’t overcome."
His standing: Hamlin is 26th in the standings with 462 points.
Outlook: Richmond ought to at least be interesting for Hamlin. He might feel like he owes Menard a payback … and does he think his feud with Joey Logano is settled? The 0.75-mile Richmond course provides the perfect payback setting.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his fourth consecutive race this past weekend and watched Mark Martin piloted his No. 14 Chevrolet to a 25th-place finish. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won’t return in 2013.
His standing: Stewart is 23rd in the standings with 594 points.