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Coca-Cola drivers toast another win, Chase bid

August 27, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

The Coca-Cola Racing Family had a winner, clincher, spinner and thrower at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won the race. Greg Biffle locked in a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Ryan Newman's playoff hopes took a hit with a crash.

And word has it that Tony Stewart sent an invitation to a fellow driver to share a Coke by tossing his helmet.

Denny Hamlin

Bristol finish: First

Season standings: Eighth

Hamlin's third win of the season should assure him a spot in the Chase. After starting eighth, he stayed up in the top five much of the race despite getting involved in a pit-road mishap with another car and taking a chance with a pit strategy that left him outside the top 20 at one point. Hamlin maneuvered into the lead with the 38 laps left for his first victory in four months and his first at Bristol.

Video: Final Laps | Victory Lane | Press Pass

What he said: "This is such a great feeling. It's been a long time since I've been this competitive at Bristol. This is just a big win. ... You dream about winning at this place and I've come so close -- I've led on the last lap at this track and never won. That part of it is so frustrating."

Joey Logano

Bristol finish: Eighth

Season standings: 18th

Logano is one of several drivers a win away from a Chase spot, but time is running out with just two races remaining before NASCAR's playoffs. He led the most laps in the race (136) while dominating the first 200 laps. But pit strategy and changing track conditions pushed him back in the field. He regained the lead with a little more than 150 laps left but fell back after more pit stops and a tough-handling car. Logano surged to eighth, his best finish at Bristol and his top result in the past six races. In 18th place in the standings with one win, he needs another victory to have a chance to make the Chase.

What he said: "This was the most frustrating race I think I've ever been a part of -- you just couldn't do anything. I had a good car in the beginning of the race, and the track changed, and we tried to keep up with it. We just couldn't keep up with it. We led a lot of laps -- have to be proud of that. We need to win, and anything short of that is not good enough."

How the other Coca-Cola racers fared at Bristol:

Bobby Labonte shook off early race troubles to get his best finish in six races with a 14th-place finish. "We needed this finish," said crew chief Brian Burns. "It almost feels like a win." Labonte remains in 24th in the points.

Jamie McMurray touched the top 10 but battled an ill-handling car for a 17th-place result. It was the second time in his past seven Bristol races that he finished outside the top 11. He sits 19th in the points standings.

Greg Biffle tried a late-race pit strategy that cost him track position after leading 41 laps. He finished 19th but kept the points lead and clinched a Chase spot. "We weren't going to win, so we thought we might as well try what we can," Biffle said.

Tony Stewart started 21st and worked his way into the lead by Lap 332. He spent the next two laps battling another driver to stay on top before both wrecked. Stewart's response to what would be a 27th place-finish was to throw his helmet at his counterpart's hood (Video). He holds the last automatic spot into the Chase, but his three wins assure him a spot to defend his title.

Danica Patrick looked like she was headed for a top-20 finish before a collision with 64 laps to go (Video). Her 29th-place finish was her best in her limited Sprint Cup run this season. "The team did a great job, and everything was running really smoothly. So it's a shame that we lost that," she said. "But, you know, Bristol is a place where you find out who's playing fair and who's not."

Jeff Burton got his best start (sixth) in six years at Bristol and was in the top-10 before he got caught in a Lap 192 wreck. His 33rd-place finish was just the second outside the top 20 since 2006 at the track. He is 20th in the points. "We needed a good run," Burton said. "We had a good enough car [Saturday night] to make that happen. It's just been one of those years."

Ryan Newman fought off an ill-handling car to make his way from outside the top 20 and into the top 10 before a flat tire sent him to the wall for a 36th-place finish (Video). He is 15th in standings and has a win. Newman is 19 points outside of the final Chase wild-card spot with one win, though he could improve his chances of making the playoffs with another victory.

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