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Hottest tracks for Coca-Cola Family

July 02, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Where the Coca-Cola Family has excelled in 2012 and how it did at Kentucky

With soaring temperatures announcing summer this past weekend, it's time to look at where the Coca-Cola Racing Family has shown some heat this season.

Also, a look at how the drivers performed at Kentucky Speedway.

Greg Biffle

Season standings: Fourth

Kentucky finish: 21st

Hottest: First two months of the season

From the Bud Shootout in February to the race at Kansas Speedway in April, Biffle never finished worse than 13th. He had five top-5s in the first eight points races and held the points led for 11 weeks before engine woes left him 24th at Pocono. After rebounding with a pair of top-10s, Biffle was in position for another at Kentucky. Then he ran over a piece of debris on pit road and had to make a green-flag stop that cost him a lap he would not regain. He slipped two spots to fourth in the season standings, but his Chase chances look rock solid with a 71-point lead over the 10th-place driver.

What he said: "It was about like it was last year here. We qualified a little better this year than we did last year, but the end result is the same. We were off a little bit and just couldn't get a handle on it. We were running 10th or 12th pretty much all night, and that is about all we had."

Denny Hamlin

Season standings: Fifth

Kentucky finish: Third

Hottest: April

Hamlin's average finish of 5.75 in April bookended with races in his native Virginia. His win at Kansas -- his second of the year -- all but secured a spot in the Chase. Good thing considering he has had four top-5s and four finishes of 18th or worse since leaving the Old Dominion state. After two straight weeks at the back of the pack, Hamlin bounced back to a Coca-Cola Racing Family-best third at Kentucky, where his team had the race's fastest pit stops. He jumped three spots in the season standings to fifth.

What he said: "I had to save fuel. I could have ran harder really the whole run and try to give the 2 [Brad Keselowski] a run for its money, but I needed a finish coming off two straight DNFs. Our priority was to finish [Saturday night], and it was a good run for our FedEx Express Toyota."

Tony Stewart

Season standings: Ninth

Kentucky finish: 32nd

Hottest: Stretch in March-April and the three races before Kentucky

Stewart usually starts seasons slowly, but he grabbed wins in Las Vegas and Fontana during a four-race stretch early in the season where his average finish was 5.75. He regained his form during the trio of recent races with two seconds and a third. A bad ignition at Kentucky cost his 36 laps in the garage. He came out to run laps and gained a few points while finishing 32nd. With his worst result in 47 races, Stewart slipped four spots in the standings. His two wins should help seal a Chase spot.

Ryan Newman

Season standings: 15th

Kentucky finish: 34th

Hottest: The same stretch in March-April as Stewart

Newman hit his stride in the same four-race span as his teammate, Stewart. He averaged a sixth-place finish from Las Vegas through Martinsville, where he won to give Stewart-Haas Racing three victories during four races. Unfortunately, Newman has finished no better than 12th at Pocono in the 11 races since. He had a strong car at Kentucky and spent much of the evening in the top-15 before blowing the engine and he crashing into the wall with about 60 laps remaining. Newman's poor finish -- his first outside the top-20 since Darlington -- pushed him out of a wild-card spot in the Chase.

What he said: "It was going to be a good night for the Tornados Chevrolet, maybe not a great night, but a good night. I really think we were going to get a good finish and have a good night points-wise and finally get another top-10."

Joey Logano

Season standings: 16th

Kentucky finish: 22nd

Hottest: Darlington to Sonoma

In the six-race, coast-to-coast stretch from South Carolina cotton country to California wine country, Logano had four top-10s that included a win at Pocono. The victory plus the rash of good runs have helped keep his Chase hopes afloat. Driving without air conditioning at Kentucky, Logano seemed like he would have another decent finish before Newman smacked his rear bumper and sent him into another car. Logano got a lap down with repairs and could not recover to avoid a 22nd-place finish. He is part of a three-way tie in points that has him a win away from a Chase wild-card spot.

What he said: "I think we had a car that could have finished in the top-10 or just outside of the top-10, and we had it taken away from us by someone else's mistake. That is the frustrating part about it. We had a car that was capable of finishing further up, and we just had it taken away from us."

Jamie McMurray

Season standings: 19th

Kentucky finish: 15th

Hottest: Texas to Talladega

Four straight top-15s -- including three straight 14th-place finishes -- from mid-April to mid-May marked the most consistent period of McMurray's season. Earlier in 2012, he scored a pair of consecutive top-10s at Las Vegas and Bristol. On Saturday in Kentucky, he hovered on the edge of the top-15 most of the night before coming home with his seventh top-15 in the past 11 races. He gained a spot in the points standings to 19th.

What he said: "A really solid effort by our McDonald's team [Saturday night]. We fought a loose car all night, and they worked hard in the pits to make the right adjustments. I felt that we had a top-10 car after our final practice [Friday]. This track is very rough and hard to get a handle on. Our car was pretty good; we just needed that valuable track position."

Jeff Burton

Season standings: 20th

Kentucky finish: 24th

Hottest: First four races of the season

Burton started the year with a fifth at the Daytona 500 and posted two top-15s in his next three races. A series of car problems have left him struggling to find consistency after that. He has three top-15s after Bristol. At Kentucky, a poor-handling car caused him to lose a lap, but his crew thought he might have a chance to get a good finish with some fuel-mileage strategy. They has him make one stop the rest of the race rather than two. In the middle of Burton's final stop, a caution came out and left him a lap down. His 24th-place finish cost him a spot in the standings.

What he said: "Tough finish [Saturday night] because I thought we had a top-15 car, but terrible luck found us again and we were pinned one lap down for most of the event. I really wanted to get a good finish for everyone ... because I felt like these guys worked so hard and stayed positive all night."

Bobby Labonte

Season standings: 25th

Kentucky finish: 27th

Hottest: First two races of the year

A 14th at the Daytona 500 and a 16th at Phoenix are the only back-to-back top-20s of the season for the one-car team that is making the transition to a standalone shop. He has three top-20s since. Labonte has been one of the circuit's best drivers in gaining spots at the end of a race this season. At Kentucky, Labonte could not get much grip on his front tires through the turns, making for a rough night of driving on the bumpy track. Despite finishing 27th, he gained a spot in the standings.

What he said: "It's not the finish we wanted, but we look to rebound this week at Daytona. That's one race that's a crap shoot and anyone can win it.

Weekly Coca-Cola Roundup Archive