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Teammates find the sweet spot

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

Stewart, Newman lead Coca-Cola Family, finish in top 10 for second week in a row

The rain at Pocono couldn't dampen the recent good recent run of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, who grabbed top-10s for the second consecutive week.

The Stewart-Haas tandem teammates led five Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers to top-17 finishes during the season's second stop at the Pennsylvania track.

With five races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Stewart is among a trio in the red-and-white posse -- along with Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin -- destined to race for the title.

Newman likely will be fighting for a wild-card spot until the final regular-season race, while Joey Logano will need another win to boost his playoff chances.

Tony Stewart

Pocono finish: Fifth

Season standings: Sixth

Stewart is not starting so great (five qualifying efforts of 22nd or worst in the past six races), but he's finishing pretty well. He started 28th at Pocono and, like he has done in recent weeks, Stewart zoomed through the field into the top-10 by Lap 40. When the rain stopped the race after 98 laps, he was credited with a fifth-place finish -- his 13th top-11 result in his past 15 Pocono events. Stewart has moved into sixth in the standings after seven top-12 finishes in his past eight races.

What he said: "I'm real proud of [crew chief] Steve Addington and these guys. We didn't necessarily throw a Hail Mary at it, but we kind of went back to where we started yesterday and worked from that. We only spent about a quarter of the two practices on the setup that we ended up racing. I'm really proud of him for taking all afternoon and evening last night and finding the package that we ran [Sunday]. It was a much better race car."

Ryan Newman

Pocono finish: Sixth

Season standings: 14th

Newman continues to be the driver within a car's length of the Chase's second and final wild-card spot. The series' third-best qualifier this season started ninth and spent only one lap outside the top-15. He was sixth when the rain began. Newman has not finished worse than 18th in his past 15 Pocono races. Four consecutive top-10 results have helped Newman stay in the hunt for a title run. He's tied in points for the second wild-card spot but would miss the cut on a tiebreaker if the Chase started this week.

What he said: "Our car was pretty good. One more restart we would have been in really good shape. Never the less, the guys did a good job, fought hard, had decent pit stops. A good solid day, we needed that, another top-10. We will go on, gained on the No. 18 [Kyle Busch], but now I've got to contend with the No. 24 [Jeff Gordon], it looks like."

Joey Logano

Pocono finish: 13th

Season standings: 17th

Logano, who won the first Pocono race this year, made a strong comeback to keep his Chase chance afloat. He started 14th after winning the past two poles at Pocono. He fell back as far as 29th with what would end up being the final 30 laps of the race. He gained eight spots in the final 16 laps for a 13th-place finish. Logano is 37 points from the second wild-card, but he's also a win away from taking command of the final spot in the Chase.

Greg Biffle

Pocono finish: 15th

Season standings: Third

Biffle might not have the series lead, but he remains in the top three as the regular season winds down. He started 12th at Pocono and spent much of the race in the top five. Biffle had the best average running position of the Coca-Cola Family on Sunday. He was third with eight laps left but had to slow for a late crash and lost track position. His 15th-place finish was better than his 24th in June at Pocono.

What he said: "I don't know what happened, well I do know what happened, the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] just spun out. I never even slowed down. I went up, kissed the fence, shifted down and was digging like hell. I had to wait for the 17 [Matt Kenseth] to cross in front of me and watched him take the 11 [Denny Hamlin] out, then I went and they put me all the way back to 16th. There is no way. No way."

Denny Hamlin

Pocono finish: 29th

Season standings: Eighth

Hamlin had dominated during the past seven-plus years at Pocono, leading most laps for a series-high four wins. He was on the front row on Sunday -- his 12th top-seven start in his 14 career races at Pocono. He led three laps but fell back to 34th by Lap 20. Hamlin battled back inside the top 15 before getting caught in a late crash that sent him to the infield care center with an aching stomach. His 29th-place finish was just his fifth outside the top-20 this season.

What he said: "We were struggling really all day and guys [stayed] out on old tires. So we all went in Turn 1 and the leaders got in trouble. And next thing you know, one of the cars slid right in front me, and that was about the end of it. We weren't going to win anyway, and at this point all we're racing for is wins."

Other Coca-Cola drivers: Jamie McMurray spent time in the top 10 before finishing 17th. He remains 19th in the standings. ... Jeff Burton's 22nd-place finish was his worst at Pocono in seven years. He is 20th in the points. ... Bobby Labonte started 39th and came home 27th. The former series champion sits 23rd in the standings.

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