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Hamlin leads Coca-Cola Family

September 24, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Driver gets fifth win of 2012 as remaining drivers finish in top 26 again

Led by race winner Denny Hamlin, all Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers landed within the top 26 in New Hampshire for the second week in a row.

Hamlin, who is looking for his first Sprint Cup Series title, got his fifth win of the season as half of the contour bottle gang finished in the top 10: fellow Chaser Tony Stewart as well as Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

Hamlin and Stewart remain in the top four in the Chase standings, while Greg Biffle sits in ninth. Newman is closing in on a chance to go to Vegas.


Denny Hamlin

New Hampshire finish: First

Chase standings: Third

Before Sunday, Hamlin had the best career-average finish among all drivers at New Hampshire, having finished worse than 15th only once in 13 races. He had the resume to back up his prediction that he would win. Though Hamlin started 32nd, he was 12th after a Lap 42 competition caution. Hamlin took the lead on Lap 94 and would stay up front for 193 of the remaining 206 laps. He built leads as big as six seconds before winning for a second time in New Hampshire. Hamlin gained a spot to third in the Chase and is seven points outside the lead.

What he said: "It doesn't hurt to have a little confidence in your team. I know we made a couple of big mistakes in the last two weeks, but I said we were fast enough to make it up, and we were. I'm going to have these guys' backs until they die on me. ... Our car was extremely strong, and I have a really good knack for this race track and it just -- the two together, with a crew chief like Darian [Grubb], it's a winning combination."

Tony Stewart

New Hampshire finish: Seventh

Chase standings: Fourth

Stewart started strong, qualifying third and taking the lead after four laps. He led until the first caution. Though he remained in the top five, his car started to lose some of its balance to get through the corners. Stewart's crew made adjustments that improved the handling enough for him to charge from 10th to seventh in the final 22 laps. His 17th top-10 in 28 career starts at New Hampshire kept him 10 points out of the Chase lead in fourth place.

What he said: "It might've been a solid result, but we need to be better than that."

Greg Biffle

New Hampshire finish: 18th

Chase standings: Ninth

Biffle had a trouble getting his car around the New England track. After starting 13th, he reported the car was too loose and suffered chattering tires. Biffle had begun making his way into the top 10 when his handling problems returned. He finished 18th -- just his sixth appearance outside the top-15 in 28 races this season. He dropped a spot to ninth in the Chase.

What he said: "We were just battling overall grip. Our car just didn't have any grip right when we unloaded off the truck and never fixed it."

Other Coca-Cola drivers

Joey Logano battled with ill-handling car, but a two-tire stop on Lap 180 took him from 19th to third. He slid back outside the top 10 but returned after staying on the track during a late caution. He finished eighth, a week after coming home seventh. They were his first consecutive top-10 results in three months. He is 18th in the standings.

Ryan Newman, like his teammate Stewart, didn't have the handling to get around New Hampshire as well as he would have liked. His car was rough exiting the corners after qualifying eighth. Newman was able to hang onto his second 10th-place finish at New Hampshire this season. He sits 24 points out of 13th place, which earns a trip to the NASCAR awards banquet.

Jeff Burton started 11th and stuck around the top 15 for the first 100 laps. He slid back toward 20th but recovered with a late push. He rose from 19th to 15th in the final 75 laps. He is 19th in the standings.

Bobby Labonte posted his best qualifying run in two months, starting 17th. He had to recover from racing outside the top 30 after 100 laps for a finish at 20th. Labonte remains in 24th in the points.

Jamie McMurray never quite had the handling on his car to improve his track position after starting 29th. He finished 26th and is 20th in the standings.

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