News & Media

Trio of Coke drivers in top 10 at Phoenix

March 06, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Hamlin grabs the checkered, Biffle Logano up front for second week in a row

Phoenix International Raceway left a good taste of top-10 finishes for a trio of Coca-Cola Family drivers -- including the race winner.

A quartet had potentially good days spoiled by bad engines and wrecks.

Still, the family has five drivers among the top 15 in series points two races into the 2012 season.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin's offseason stay in Arizona seemed to pay off. He spent just three laps outside the top-15 on Sunday at Phoenix. After taking the lead on Lap 254, Hamlin held off Kevin Harvick, who ran out of gas on the last lap, for Hamlin's first win at the track. Combined with a fourth-place run at the Daytona 500, he leads the Sprint Cup Series after two races.

Hamlin: "One of the FedEx employees asked me earlier -- 'Do you know where Victory Lane is here?' I said, 'I don't know but they can point me to it after the race.' ... We've never been in this position this early in the season. We've always struggled. We've always taken our time -- five or six races in -- before we hit our stride."

Greg Biffle

Third place belongs to the No. 16 this season. Biffle posted his second third-place finish of the year after dealing with a rough-handling car for much of the day. He performed well despite having the race's 11th-best average running position. His finish at Phoenix was his best in five years and put him second in the series standings.

Biffle: "It started out really loose and then we would go dead right. We got the balance much better toward the end of that race and got some track position. ... I wish I wouldn't have tried to save so much gas. I probably would have caught the No. 29, but you just never know how much gas you've got."

Joey Logano

Desert air agrees with the Connecticut native. Logano's 10th-place finish was his fourth in the top 11 in his past five races at Phoenix. Logano got shuffled back a little with his car handing rough in traffic. Still, he has the most laps in the top 15 this season after spending all but six laps outside of the front runners Sunday. Logano is eighth in the standings.

Logano: "I really think we had a car that easily could have finished better than we did, but we just got caught without track position there late in the race and couldn't go anywhere when we were stuck back in traffic. ... It was the right call to come in and get fuel on that last pit stop. We didn't need to get stuck out there trying to save fuel or take the chance of running out. We are really looking to get through these first five races or so with a lot of momentum and a good spot in the point standings. Then we can start to take some chances."

Bobby Labonte

Labonte is off to his best start in three seasons after he rallied back from a lap down from 24th place with 60 laps to go to finish 16th in Phoenix. He reached as high as fourth in the race though cycled back after a Lap 192 pit stop and a tighter car. Labonte sits 11th in the standings by being one of the season's best closers.

Labonte: "We were tight in the center during the race. Overall, everyone did a good job. To finish 16th Sunday is an improvement from where we finished last year in both races [21st] at Phoenix."

Ryan Newman

Newman did not have an easy weekend in Arizona. Driving a backup car after a practice-time brush with the wall, Newman was in the top 10 when he spun following contact with Carl Edwards on Lap 257. He managed to finish 21st, two laps back -- which snapped a streak of four top-fives at Phoenix. He's 18th in the point standings.

Newman: "I'm 99 percent sure Carl Edwards didn't do that on purpose, but I trusted him. Now he can't trust me because there is a lot to be had and lost, we lost a lot [Sunday]. ... We finished 21st, it was a hard-fought 21st after getting crashed. For these guys to come back with a back-up car that was going for four or fifth [place], we were there I was really proud of them."

Tony Stewart

After spending much of the day in the top 10, Stewart couldn't get his car restarted after a routine engine shut off during a caution on Lap 249 and lost two laps he couldn't get back. He came in 22nd despite posting some of the fastest green-flag laps in race. Stewart is 15th in the standings, but he started slowly last year when he won the series title.

Stewart: "I just shut the car off like we did at Daytona and turned it back on, and it never re-fired. That's all I can tell you. I don't know why it didn't re-fire. I honestly don't know. It's not really my department. ... We talked with the Hendrick guys. We'll keep working with them to try to figure out what happened."

Jeff Burton

Burton showed his car was strong despite a poor result Sunday. He spent much of the day in the top 15 as one of race's most prolific passers. But Burton could not follow up a fifth-place at Daytona as an engine failure on Lap 291 left him with a 33rd-place finish in Phoenix. He's third in average running position this season and is 13th in the points standings.

Burton: "I don't really know what happened. We broke something. ... It is really disappointing we had a pretty easy top-10. We didn't run quite as well as we wanted to, but we ran well and put ourselves in position to have a good day. These things are going to happen."

Jamie McMurray

McMurray demonstrated his ability to fight back from adversity in Phoenix. He recovered from a Lap 134 accident to take the lead at Lap 207. But his engine failed five laps later and he finished 37th. Along with a 31st at Daytona, McMurray is off to his worst start in 10 full seasons in the Cup Series.

McMurray: "I don't know maybe the No. 22 car [AJ Allmendinger] and Paul [Menard] had to check-up and I already had a run on him. I didn't see the car in front of him hit, so I got tangled up there. ... I don't know the motor blew up again. I don't know what happened there. It started missing and started smoking and just quit running, tough day."