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Coca-Cola Racing Family wins again

March 13, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Stewart grabs first win of '12 as three Coca-Cola drivers place in top five

Coca-Cola made a second consecutive appearance in Victory Lane with the defending series champion dominating in Las Vegas.

Four of the top-eight finishers on Sunday were drivers in the Coca-Cola Racing Family.

And after three races, seven of the eight family drivers are among the top 16 in the season standings, paced by a very consistent third-place driver.

Tony Stewart

Las Vegas finish: First

Season standings: Seventh

After not winning a race until the Chase last season, Stewart has started collecting checkered flags early in 2012. He won Sunday without ever falling outside the top 10 in the race. Stewart was the fastest off the restarts, which is how he got in the front of field on Lap 234 and led the rest of the way for his first victory at Las Vegas. He shot up eight spots in the standings after averaging 19th in the first two races.

What he said: "I take a lot of pride in being good in different types of cars, at least being competitive in different types of cars, being competitive at different race tracks. This is one we've been close a couple times and it got away. To finally check this off the list. That's what makes [Sunday] so special."

Greg Biffle

Las Vegas finish: Third

Season standings: First

Biffle is three-for-three with third-place finishes this season. He was among the top-three racers Sunday at the beginning of runs, late in runs, off restarts and in traffic. He spent only one lap outside the top 15 to tie his best finish ever at Las Vegas. Biffle's atop the standings because he has spent 88 percent of his laps in the top 15 this season.

What he said: "It certainly started off to be a good season for us so far. Just plain and simply [crew chief] Matt Puccia is the reason why we're running and competing and finishing where we are. This team needed leadership and he was willing to step up and take the task on and he's done a fantastic job so far."

Ryan Newman

Las Vegas finish: Fourth

Season standings: 13th

Newman helped make the Stewart-Haas race team the big winner at Las Vegas. Newman grabbed his first top-10 finish of the year and rallied from eighth to fourth in the final four laps as a couple of cars ahead of him were involved in a mishap. He spent all but six laps outside the top 15. Newman rose five positions in the standings.

What he said: "We're really proud to be able to get them a top-five in their first race. We were in the right place at the right time on that last restart. We restarted eighth, and the No. 17 [Matt Kenseth] had his little issue there, and I just kept the pedal to the metal there and drove it up to fourth."

Jamie McMurray

Las Vegas finish: Eighth

Season standings: 25th

McMurray came up with his best performance of the year despite feeling sick during the race. He was third in green-flag passes on Sunday and came from as far back as 25th to grab his third top-10 in his past six races at Las Vegas. McMurray, who averaged 34th place in his first two starts, moved up 11 spots in the series standings -- the second-biggest jump among racers Sunday.

What his crew chief (Kevin Manion) said: "We're not overly excited about an eighth-place finish. I believe we had a top-five car. The team needed a [good] finish. ... He showed up [Sunday] morning and he was sick. I don't think he slept [Saturday] night. He hasn't eaten. So, for Jamie to come through like he did for us [Sunday] was really big like he didn't want to talk on the radio and you know when you're not feeling good, you don't want nothing."

Jeff Burton

Las Vegas finish: 14th

Season standings: 15th

Burton has done well at Las Vegas with eight top-10 finishes in 15 races, including two wins. While he didn't get another top-tier finish Sunday, he showed his experience at the track by gaining eight positions in the final 27 laps -- the most of any racer to finish 14th Sunday.

What he said: "To start off, we got behind on Friday when I ran over debris from the No. 42 car and lost valuable practice time sitting in the garage. I'm proud of this team for not giving up [Sunday]. We didn't roll over when things got bad and turned nothing into something."

Joey Logano

Las Vegas finish: 16th

Season standings: Ninth

Despite starting in the top 10, Logano struggled with his car's handling and eventually fell a lap down. He slipped to as low as 28th, but he got the lucky dog on Lap 250 and gained seven spots late in the race to finish 16th. Logano remains ninth in the standings after two top-10 finishes to start the season.

What he said: "The key to our season is going to be days like this. We know we can run up front and contend for wins and get top-fives and top-10s. It's days like this, where we are struggling and just don't have the car and try to make something out of those days."

Denny Hamlin

Las Vegas finish: 20th

Season standings: Third

After winning at Phoenix last week, Hamlin had grip issues that led him to go a lap down early at Las Vegas. While he managed to return to the lead lap, he finished a season-worst 20th. Hamlin remains third in the standings with the victory and a fourth-place in Daytona.

What he said: "Our car -- we didn't have very much speed in it when we got here. Usually we can make up a little bit in the race -- we just stayed two-, three-tenths off pretty much all day. Even when the balance wasn't too bad, we were just fighting speed. Guys were just driving around us."

Bobby Labonte

Las Vegas finish: 26th

Season standings: 16th

Labonte finished three laps down for a season-worst 26th place. He never got higher than 17th in the race. A pair of top-16 finishes in Daytona and Phoenix has helped the Texas native among the leaders in the standings.

What his crew chief [Todd Berrier] said before the race: "We set goals at the beginning of the season to finish around 15th or 17th or so, but we are not happy with those goals. We have done what we are supposed to do so far, but we are not where we want to be."

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