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Tough day at Talladega

May 07, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Biffle, Burton only drivers to crack top 10 as 'Dega wrecks hit hard

The Coca-Cola Family came up just short of Victory Lane for a second consecutive week but points leader Greg Biffle finished fifth to remain in the top spot.

Last week in Richmond, a late caution and poor pit stop hampered Tony Stewart's bid for a third win this season. This week, a car running hot all day at Talladega dinged Biffle's shot at his second win of 2012.

A couple members of the red-and-white crew had their best results in several weeks, while a handful are probably glad to put the unpredictable race behind them.

Greg Biffle

Talladega finish: Fifth

Season standings: First

Biffle remained in the top 15 for all but four laps of the race and had the fastest pit stops. Then leader Matt Kenseth chose to lineup in front of him in the final two laps, but Biffle could not stay close enough to help his teammate and lost momentum. Still, Biffle finished with his series-high sixth top-five finish. He holds a seven-point season lead with the one driver who has more top-10 finishes than Biffle -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.

What he said: "It was tough. The car ran hot a lot of the day and we had to manage the water temperature and the fuel. It was close at the end but I just wish I could have stayed on Matt's bumper. He pulled away from me a little bit. If we could have stayed locked together, it would have come down to him and me at the end but we just couldn't stay locked up with him there at the end."

Jeff Burton

Talladega finish: 10th

Season standings: 18th

Burton has been fast in recent weeks and finally got a result to show for it. Despite trying to manage the water temperature in his car, he surged nine spots in the final 15 laps for his first top-10 finish in six races. The 10th-place finish tied Burton's best in the Talladega spring race in three years. He led three laps on Sunday -- his first time out front since the second race of the season. Burton gained two spots in the standings.

What he said: "Not being able to race the way we want to race is frustrating. Every time we would get in the pack, our water pressure would get real high and we didn't want to push water and that wasn't a lot of fun. But we caught a lucky break there when that caution came out and fortunately that helped us a lot."

Jamie McMurray

Talladega finish: 11th

Season standings: 16th

McMurray worked to keep his engine cool and his car out of wrecks to boost his streak of top-15s to four with his best finish in six races. He bided his time after qualifying 23rd to move toward the front of the pack about midway through the race. But his efforts to find speed in the second and third grooves proved fruitless to sustain him in the top 10. McMurray was pleased to come home 11th after a pair of "Big Ones" took out many competitors. He climbed another two spots to 16th -- up eight places from the Easter break.

What he said: "It was just really hard to pass. We rode in the back there for a while and then when I tried to go to the front, I never really could get there. It seemed like the inside lane was the best lane if you were up front. And then when you were in the second groove, it was just very tempting to go out to the third lane. And every time you would do that, you would go backwards."

Bobby Labonte

Talladega finish: 21st

Season standings: 26th

Labonte notched his best result in the spring Talladega race in four years and has had his best back-to-back finishes in the past two weeks since the start of the season. He reached 10th place halfway through the race despite qualifying a season-worst 42nd. But his car started smoking, forcing Labonte to slow and lose the pack that eventually lapped him while waiting for a caution. He got back to speed before running out of fuel (which might have kept him out of a wreck) and later cutting a tire (which cost him another lap). He moved up a spot in the point standings.

What his team tweeted: "Just couldn't catch a break [Sunday]."

Denny Hamlin

Talladega finish: 23rd

Season standings: Fourth

A late accident and shredded tire left Hamlin with a season-worst 23rd place finish -- that also tied his worst-ever finish at the Talladega spring race. He started 22nd but lost a lap and fell back as far as 35th. Hamlin returned to the lead lap on Lap 150 and got to the lead 10 laps later. His eight laps led were his most at Talladega in two years. He was hovering in the top 10 when he collided with A.J. Allmendinger on Lap 186 that would lead to a flat tire just before the green flew. He dropped a slot to fourth in the points race.

What he said: "After we wrecked, it was a lot of tire debris -- there was nothing to keep the tires from slapping the back of my neck when we were inside the car. Really, it was unfortunate. Our car was super-fast. We came back from a lap down and had a shot to win, but it just didn't work out."

Tony Stewart

Talladega finish: 24th

Season standings: Eighth

Stewart's good-looking day -- which included leading the first 16 laps of the race -- was undone by a couple of big problems. His car was overheating, which required getting out of the pack to get clean air. Then just as he got the car right and was moving to the front, he became tangled in one of the day's big wrecks, the one started by Hamlin and Allmendinger, on Lap 186. That mishap unleashed his sarcastic displeasure about rules for the cars' set-up at the track. Despite tying his season-worst finish, Stewart still gained a place in the standings.

What he said: "We didn't quite crash half the field, which is what we normally look to do here. I was excited about it. I thought it was a pretty good race. I made it further than I thought I would before I got crashed. I call it a successful day."

Joey Logano

Talladega finish: 26th

Season standings: 15th

A day after winning the Nationwide race, Logano tried to play it safe at Talladega to avoid one of the "Big One." He was content to drive toward the rear, mostly running in the 20s and getting as high as third. But on Lap 140, Logano could not avoid a big wreck that collected nine cars. His No. 20 ran hot after the accident and Logano was rear-ended in a Lap 173 accident. He remained on the lead lap, but he was hit in the rear again on the second "Big One" of the day and sent into the wall for his worst finish of the season. He remains 15th in the standings.

What he said: "There was absolutely nothing that went right [Sunday]. This type of racing is very frustrating. You just don't really have much control of what happens out there. If you decide to go up there and race at the front, you are right in the middle of the packs and you have a good chance of getting involved in a big wreck because you have nowhere to go. We decided to just hang out in the back and keep our car in one piece for the end of the race. Of course, this time, that didn't work and being in the back, around some of the guys that normally run back there, caused us to get involved in two accidents that we should have missed."

Ryan Newman

Talladega finish: 36th

Season standings: 10th

Newman's day was cut short by an engine failure 40 laps into the race and left him with a season-low 36th. He has not finished better than 23rd at Talladega since 2009. He posted his seventh consecutive top-15 qualifying run and was happy to ride toward the back before reporting water spewing from the car and the loss of oil pressure. Newman slid from 10th to 13th in the standings, but he holds a wildcard Chase spot with his win at Martinsville.

What he said: "I smelled oil off of [Turn] 2 and felt the motor tightening up, and I lost oil pressure and gained a bunch of water pressure. I just pulled it out of gear. I knew it was blowing up, but just seeing if we had a chance to fix it and hoping we could. But I'm pretty sure it's hurt."

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