Coca-Cola Racing Family Roundup: Dover
September 30, 2013, Taylor Starer, NASCAR.com
With the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway being the third Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race this season, drivers had to kick it into gear to start seeing positive movement in points.
Chase rookie Joey Logano led the Coca-Cola Racing Family with a third-place finish at Dover, but his top-five finish wasn't enough to make any waves in the Chase standings.
Fellow Chase contender Ryan Newman made his way into the top 10 on Sunday as well. Starting third in the field, Newman couldn't hold onto that position, but his eighth-place finish helped him jump two spots in the standings to seventh.
Meanwhile, Greg Biffle finished right behind Newman in ninth. It wasn't quite the same exciting finish as Chicagoland, and unfortunately Biffle dropped back one position in the standings to sixth.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in the order of how they finished at Dover:
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Logano calls Dover International Speedway his favorite track, and while he's seen success in the past four Nationwide Series races there, he just couldn't come out on top in the Sprint Cup Series AAA 400. Since the start of the Chase, Logano hasn't had the best luck, but his time at the Monster Mile was the best run he's had so far. Starting 11th in the field, Logano finished third, right behind fellow Chase contenders Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Although he earned a top-five finish, he remains 12th in the Chase standings.
Quotable: "We are concerned about points because we’re in the Chase and we’re not out of it yet. I just saw we’re 66 points back now so we gained a couple, which isn’t many, but these are the days we’ve got to have. We’re back on track. ... Our biggest issue is we didn’t take off with really good speed, but after 15, 16, 17 laps it came to me and it was really fast. It just took a little bit too long there on the last restart. I was able to get up to third, I was in the right lane, but by the time my car came to me, I was too late. We were the fastest car the last six laps, but it doesn’t really matter when you can barely see the leaders. Unfortunately, that was our day, but, overall, we can’t be too disappointed with a third-place finish. It’s just that you always want to be a little better."
His standing: Logano is 12th in the standings with 2,083 points.
Outlook: Logano has had eight previous Sprint Cup Series runs at Kansas Speedway, but has yet to see the top 10. Perhaps that opportunity could be this weekend.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman had a quiet ride at Dover, starting out third, he stayed inside the top-five for the first half of the race and even led twice for six laps. This was until handling issues began to plague the Stewart-Hass Racing car. After adjustments were made, Newman put up a good fight to better his eighth-place spot, but was unable to pull through before the checkered flag was waved. Newman’s eighth-place finish bumped him up two spots in the Chase standings to seventh.
Quotable: “Our day started out really well, the car was great for the first 100 laps or so,” said Newman, who scored his 12th top-10 finish in 24 starts at Dover. “It got tight after that, and we never could make the right adjustment to get it handling like I needed it to. We finished eighth, but I know a lot of the guys we're in the Chase with finished ahead of us.”
His standing: Newman is seventh in the standings with 2,101 points.
Outlook: Now seventh in the standings, Newman will need a top-five finish at Kansas to continue to see positive movement. He has one previous win at Kansas Speedway, but that was 10 years ago. Newman currently sits 48 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, so a win at Kansas could bump him up to a more competitive playing field with other Chase contenders.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: After Biffle’s third-place finish at New Hampshire, more was expected of him going into Dover. His momentum from the previous race seemed to have run out and his ninth-place finish proved it as he dropped one spot in the standings to sixth. Biffle had two previous Sprint Cup career wins at the Monster Mile, but qualifying 19th didn't give him the boost he needed to make that kind of impact in this race.
Quotable: “We’ve just got to keep working at it. We’re learning stuff as we go, so we’ll just keep trying to get better every week. We went back and forth between being too loose and too tight, but I think we learned something today as to why we’ve run so bad here the last two or three years. That’s good for later on, but not good for today. Now we know. We stumbled on to a little bit of grip, so maybe that will help us at other places.”
His standing: Biffle is sixth in the standings with 2,108 points.
Outlook: Biffle needs to have another run like he did at New Hampshire to bring him out of his Chase blues. Perhaps earning a top-five position in qualifiying will start him off on the right foot at Kansas.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin wasn’t in a position to win, or even claim a top-10 at Dover after a pit-road penalty hurt him. Unfortunately, his 20th-place finish didn’t help him at all in the standings as he remains 25th.
Quotable: Hamlin was unavailable for comment.
His standing: Hamlin is 25th in the standings with 552 points.
Outlook: Hamlin has already claimed a win at Kansas in 2012, but after the year he’s had, it’s hard to tell where he’s going to finish in the field. Although Hamlin is not in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, perhaps he can regain the speed he once had in 2012 to find himself in the top 10 at Kansas.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick started 31st and battled through a tight-handling condition early in the race. This ultimately caused her to drop as low as 38th at one point in the race. Adjustments were made at each pit stop, but improvements in handling weren’t up to par. Patrick eventually finished 29th and dropped back to 28th in the standings. Patrick is competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but finished 12 spots behind Stenhouse at Dover.
Quotable: “It was just a frustrating day,” said Patrick, who made her 39th Sprint Cup start and her third at Dover. “We just couldn’t get a handle on the GoDaddy Chevy today. It was too tight from the start, and that put us behind early. It wasn’t for a lack of effort by Tony Gibson and the guys because they adjusted on the car all day. It would get better there in the middle of the race, but when it was in traffic, it would be just as tight as it was at the start of the race. It’s disappointing, but we’ll move on.”
Her standing: Patrick is 28th in the standings with 529 points.
Outlook: This will be Patrick’s third go around at Kansas and her best finish is 25th. Maybe this week Patrick can finish in the teens to better her chances at winning Rookie of the Year.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his eighth consecutive race this past weekend and watched Mark Martin pilot his No. 14 Chevrolet to a 19th-place finish. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won’t return in 2013.
His standing: Stewart is 24th in the standings with 594 points.
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