Coca-Cola Racing Family Roundup: Talladega
October 21, 2013, Taylor Starer, NASCAR.com
Coming out unscathed from Talladega Superspeedway is a battle all in itself. With the Camping World RV Sales 500 being the sixth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race this season, drivers' outcomes and triumphs are becoming more crucial to their championship chances.
Ryan Newman led the Coca-Cola Racing Family with a ninth-place finish at Talladega and, fortunately for him, moved up one position in the standings.
Fellow Chase contender Greg Biffle wasn’t as lucky. After starting sixth, Biffle couldn’t gain the momentum he needed and eventually finished 11th, dropping one position in the Chase standings.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Talladega:
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Ryan Newman went into Talladega winless at the historic track, and that's exactly how he came out. The Chase contender finished on the outskirts of the top 10, which was enough to move up in the standings. Newman gained one position to 11th, and is now 72 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Quotable: "I rode around at the back all day basically just trying to keep my nose clean. I was waiting for something to happen the whole race, but it never really did except for that wreck on the last lap that unfortunately took out my teammate Austin Dillon. I’m happy that we came out of here with a ninth-place finish and a clean WIX Filters Chevrolet. That wasn't very much fun out there, though."
His standing: Newman is 11th in the standings with 2,182 points.
Outlook: Now 11th in the standings, Newman goes to Martinsville with one previous win at that track. The driver will need a top-five finish at the Virginia track if he's to move up in the standings for the second consecutive week.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Biffle started sixth for the Camping World RV Sales 500, but unfortunately for the Roush Fenway Racing team, an 11th-place finish would have to do. Biffle dropped one position in the standings to seventh after Talladega, putting him 53 points behind Johnson.
Quotable: “We made it through, that is half the battle at this place. It was typical Talladega, we were up and then in the back and up and then in the back. At the end of the day, we missed the wreck and that is all I really care about.”
His standing: Biffle is seventh in the standings with 2,201 points.
Outlook: Biffle missed a chance at Talladega to make some positive movement in the standings.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: The Chase rookie dropped one position in the standings to 12th place after finishing 16th at 'Dega. He also led for seven laps.
Quotable: “That was a lot more conservative race than I think anyone ever thought. We all were racing pretty hard too. There were a few times when it looked like there was going to be a big crash and there never was. In the end though nobody wanted to go. ... You try to do anything you can to move up and there were a few guys back there that wanted to go but the bottom lane doesn’t work because of these big shark fins on the side that doesn’t let any air on the spoiler so it hurts the bottom lane so much. You aren't able to slow down the guy on the top because the fin blocks the air on the spoiler and you can’t slow them down. That is why the bottom lane doesn’t work and it is never going to work until they change that."
His standing: Logano is 12th in the standings with 2,179 points.
Outlook: At Talladega, Logano finished 16th in the field and missed his chance to be more aggressive in a race that could have been a boost to his position.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick held her own at Talladega Superspeedway. An expert in drafting, Patrick let this skill take her up as high as fourth in the race. A pit-road speeding penalty ruined her day, though, and she finished 33rd.
Quotable: "We just didn't communicate well on that final pit stop. We were on the high side and couldn't get down to where we needed to be to pit. We were trying to pit with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). I know it's a challenge for the spotters -- you're trying to work with other spotters on when to pit and obviously keep track of the on-track stuff. It's a lot, and it's happening fast. You have a split-second to make a decision, and we should have made another lap."
Her standing: Patrick is 28th in the standings with 565 points.
Outlook: Patrick's one previous experience at Martinsville had her finishing 12th, which is one of her career-best finishes at the Cup level. The benefit of her near top-10 is that she could use that as a bar she has set and a goal to work toward, especially if she wants a shot at the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors against beau, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Starting 15th, Hamlin had as good as a chance as any other driver to come out on top. And although Hamlin ran up front at times, his engine expired after 142 (of 188) laps, relegating him to a 38th-place finish.
Quotable: "It looks like we broke a retainer on the number six cylinder, so it's just tough. This is kind of the growing pains that you go through when you're testing different stuff. Hopefully, these are the kind of things we can learn so we don't have these issues in the Daytona 500."
His standing: Hamlin is 24th in the standings with 614 points.
Outlook: Hamlin has four wins at Martinsville, nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. Perhaps a return to his home state will produce another memorable moment.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his 11th consecutive race this past weekend and watched Nationwide Series regular Austin Dillon pilot his No. 14 Chevrolet to a 26th-place finish after flipping his car on the last lap. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won’t return in 2013.
His standing: Stewart is 26th in the standings with 594 points.