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Biffle paces Coke drivers in Daytona 500

February 29, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Biffle, Hamlin, Burton all finish top five in Great American Race

The eight drivers in the Coca-Cola Racing Family had an impressive showing to open the 2012 season -- including a trio that finished third, fourth and fifth in the delayed Daytona 500 that started Monday night and ended early Tuesday morning.

In all, six Coca-Cola drivers finished among the top 16, while five of them led NASCAR's biggest race:

Greg Biffle (third)

The Daytona 500's second-place qualifier never dropped out of the top 10 and led 44 laps. But Biffle could not keep up with his teammate Matt Kenseth who won the race in a green-white-checkered finish. He tied his best Daytona 500 finish ever at third place. Biffle never finished outside the top-six during Speedweeks.

Biffle: "Well, obviously I wish we would have done a few things maybe a little bit different. Coming out of here with a third-place finish is really exciting for us. More importantly, we didn't wreck and we got a good finish. I still am a little blown away by the end of that race and that we weren't able to push up to the back of the No. 17 car. Next time maybe we will do something a little bit different."

Denny Hamlin (fourth)

Hamlin had never finished better than 17th at the Daytona 500, but he led the most laps, 57, and spent a bulk of the evening in the top 10 for a career-best fourth-place finish.

Hamlin: "We were right where we wanted to be, but we didn't have any teammates up there. ... We didn't qualify that well. We didn't finish that well in the Duel, but we showed that we had one of the best cars [Monday]."

Jeff Burton (fifth)

Burton led 24 laps but could not muster an effective tandem to challenge the leaders before the checkered flag. Still, Burton's fifth was his best Daytona 500 result in five years. That was his fourth finish in the top 13 in the past six seasons at the big race.

Burton: "We had a good evening. We ran in the front most of the night, and we were able to keep ourselves in good track position. We thought we had a really good shot at it. ... NASCAR did a great job. To be honest, I didn't think they could make these kinds of changes, but they did and they did a great job of breaking up the tandem. It made it for a completely different race."

Joey Logano (ninth)

Logano hung around the leaders almost the entire race for his best outcome in his four 500s. He had not come any closer than 20th in his previous races before a ninth-place finish on Tuesday morning.

Logano: "I was right where I wanted to be with about 15 [laps] to go. We had an issue of saving fuel -- I shut the motor off and with the new fuel injection system, it wouldn't start back up. We lost about six spots by the time I got the thing to fire back off. It's a little late in the race to lose that track position. ... We survived it, so that's good. Everyone did a good job -- we were shooting for a win so we're a little disappointed."

Bobby Labonte (14th)

Labonte was right when he said before the 500 that the return of pack racing would equalize chances for drivers. His team, which is operating from a new shop, ran as high as third before finishing 14th -- his third top-15 result in his past five Daytona 500s.

Labonte: "It was a long night, but to be able to finish 14th is a good night for us. We have come a long way in a very short amount of time. We look forward to heading to Phoenix this week."

Tony Stewart (16th)

Stewart dominated Speedweeks with a second-place finish in the Bud Shootout and a win in his Gatorade Duel -- his 17th victory at Daytona International Speedway. He was working toward the front in the 500 when he was spun out on Lap 198. He suffered little damage and kept going for a 16th-place finish.

Stewart: "I can win the short races, but I can't seem to figure this one out. The guys did a really good job of getting the car fixed back up quickly to where we could go out and get a decent finish, but it's still not what we really wanted."

Ryan Newman (21st)

Newman couldn't follow up top-10s in the Bud Shootout and his Duel. He spun after a flat tire on Lap 14 and went two laps down. Newman fought his way back into the top 10 before he got caught up in the Lap 198 wreck. He still ended up with his best finish, 21st, since winning the 2008 Daytona 500.

Newman: "This was not the night we had hoped for. I thought we had a shot at the end, but we were once again caught up in something not of our making. Typical wrong-place, wrong-time deal that we've had time and time again at Daytona. It's really disappointing because we had fought back, gotten back on the lead lap and put ourselves in position to win."

Jamie McMurray (31st)

McMurray has not had much luck since winning the big race in 2010. After reaching as high as sixth, a crash on Lap 189 led to his seventh finish of 30th or worst in his 10 starts at the Daytona 500.

McMurray: "I was the start of all that. I don't know if the transmission locked up or the rear end. Something broke in the car, and it was actually freakishly something similar to I think what happened to the No. 42 [Juan Montoya]. It was like the back tires locked up, and I started spinning."

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