Coca-Cola Racing Family Roundup: Martinsville
October 28, 2013, RJ Kraft and Taylor Starer, NASCAR.com
Short-track racing can be a challenge, and the 500-lap Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger showed that. Drivers took to the 0.526-mile track at Martinsville Speedway knowing the racing was going to be in tight quarters.
In the seventh race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, it was a non-Chaser who fared the best out of the Coca-Cola Racing Family. Denny Hamlin started on the Coors Light Pole and earned a seventh-place finish, his second in the past three races.
Greg Biffle fared the best out of the drivers in the Chase, scoring a ninth-place finish, but he still dropped a spot in the standings.
A roundup of the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Martinsville:
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Hamlin started the race from the pole after setting a qualifying record on Friday. Hamlin ran most of the race in the top 10 and led for 14 laps. He was involved in an accident with Kasey Kahne and others that brought out a caution on Lap 183. He suffered heavy damage to his car, but his crew used black tape to fix the issue and got him back on the track. He rebounded from that for a seventh-place finish.
Quotable: "We really had about a 25th-place car. I took a pretty good shot to the wheel and the steering was off just a little bit, and here that’s usually a pretty big deal. … We had a lot of damage from that early wreck. I'm proud of this whole team for fixing it, and the pit crew did an awesome job. They kept picking me up spots on pit road."
His standing: Hamlin is 24th in the standings with 652 points.
Outlook: Hamlin holds two previous wins at Texas Motor Speedway that came consecutively in 2010. He has earning five top-fives and eight top-10s at the track during his Sprint Cup career, Hamlin knows what it takes to make an impact at the Fort Worth track.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Biffle had an interesting race. He started 33rd at a track where he does not have a favorable history throughout his Cup career. The Biff methodically moved his way up through the field and by Lap 350, he was running sixth. Biffle did suffer damage to his bumper cover and some contact from Jimmie Johnson caused the cover to come loose again. He had to pit for his crew to remove the cover and restarted 27th with just over 100 laps to go. Biffle moved back through the field to score a ninth-place finish and later exchanged some heated words with Johnson. He later issued an apology to Johnson on Twitter. Despite the top-10 finish, Biffle lost a spot in the point standings.
Quotable: "We had a great 3M Ford Fusion. It was a good day for us. I just wish that wouldn’t have happened (the rear bumper flapping forcing him to pit road). We had a top-five car here today, finally to get in the top-five at Martinsville, but that’s like our fourth or fifth top-10 in a row so I’m pretty happy."
His standing: Biffle is eighth in the standings with 2,236 points.
Outlook: Biffle has two wins at Texas, with the most recent victory coming in 2012 when he started third in the field and managed to beat out current Chase co-leader Jimmie Johnson for the first-place finish. With eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, perhaps a return to this Fort Worth track will bring out another memorable finish for Biffle.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: It was a tale of two races for Logano. For much of the first half of the race, he ran in the top 10, getting as high as fourth place on Lap 213. His crew chief, Todd Gordon, kept Logano out on the track, and a long green-flag run followed. Running on older tires, Logano slipped back to 24th on Lap 300. The rest of the race was a bit up and down for Logano, resulting in a 14th-place finish. He did move up one spot in the point standings to 11th place, though.
Quotable: "That was not the type of finish that we envisioned coming out of practice on Friday and Saturday. I felt like we had a car that was capable of winning or at least running up in the top five. We were looking good early. We got off a bit on our adjustments but we went back on them and the car was pretty good. Then about halfway through the race we got off sequence with our pit stops and that really hurt us. We got stuck out on the track with older tires and never got the yellow flag that we thought would come. So we fell back and lost all of our track position and spent the rest of the day trying to get it back."
His standing: Logano is 11th in the standings with 2,209 points.
Outlook: Compared to other Sprint Cup drivers, Logano is still relatively new to the series and has only raced 10 times at the Texas Motor Speedway. In those 10 events, Logano has not claimed a win, but he has earned a top-five finish twice, with the latest top-five run coming in the spring. Although Logano has no victories at the Fort Worth track, there's always a first time for everything.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: The weekend started off badly as Patrick wrecked in practice on Friday and had to go to her back-up car for the rest of the weekend. Starting 41st, Patrick struggled to move up early on. She found herself a lap down by Lap 50 but was the beneficiary of the free pass when a caution came out on Lap 217. Patrick took advantage of that and spent some time in the top 10. She went on to finish 17th for the race.
Quotable: "I'm really proud of what our GoDaddy team accomplished today. For pulling out the backup car on Friday and having to start so far back in the field, it was a really good run. We started in the back and made our way through, and we didn't have quite the car that we had here in the spring, but we got a similar result and that's something I’m proud of."
Her standing: Patrick is 28th in the standings with 592 points.
Outlook: Patrick's two previous runs at Texas Motor Speedway had her finishing in the 20s with her average start of 37th and average finish of 26th. In order for Patrick to better her finishing position, she needs to make an impact in her qualifying run to ensure she starts out on the right foot.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman started 17th and struggled to gain ground early on. Newman pitted three times in the first 175 laps and had to return to pit road when a lug nut was left off of his left rear wheel. A penalty moved him to 24th place for the restart on Lap 180. From there, Newman made his move and was in third place on Lap 275. Newman was running well until Lap 319, when he was hit from behind by Kevin Harvick. Newman's car underwent major repairs but he was able to return to the track. He finished 38th and ran 432 of the 500 laps. Newman also lost a spot in the point standings.
Quotable: "That was a pretty unfortunate end to our day. We were making progress with our State Water Heaters Chevrolet. We didn’t start out the day too strong, but once we had track position, I felt like we had a chance to come out of it with a good finish. I don’t know what happened there with the No. 29 car (Kevin Harvick). He got into us going off into the corner, and the next thing you know, I’m in the wall. The guys worked incredibly hard to get the car back out there so that we could salvage what we could of it. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t do anything about it now. We’ll go on to Texas next week and hopefully get a good finish there."
His standing: Newman is 12th in the standings with 2,188 points.
Outlook: In Newman's 20 races at Texas Motor Speedway he's seen Victory Lane once -- in 2003. He has claimed three top-fives, four top-10s and two poles there. Based on his past experiences, his chances for finishing in the top 10 look good, but because this is the third to last race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Newman will have to keep his focus on the track to ensure that an opportunity to advance in the standings doesn't pass him by.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his 12th consecutive race this past weekend and watched Mark Martin pilot his No. 14 Chevrolet to a 36th-place finish after wrecking with Kurt Busch. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won't return in 2013.
His standing: Stewart is 26th in the standings with 594 points.