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Chasers combine to finish strong

October 15, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Coca-Cola Racing family's top-three drivers finish in the top 15

The Coca-Cola Racing Family Chasers had their best combined finish of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Charlotte.

In a race decided by who got the most miles on a tank of fuel, Denny Hamlin finished second, with Greg Biffle fourth and reigning champion Tony Stewart 13th.

Halfway through the Chase, Hamlin sits third, within striking distance of the points leader. Biffle and Stewart cannot afford any bad results in the final five races to have a shot at the title.

As the season winds down, let's look at how many total green-flag passes the Coca-Cola clan has completed this year and at the percentage against drivers in the top 15 under the green flag.

Denny Hamlin

Charlotte finish: Second (Fifth straight top-10 at Charlotte)

Chase standings: Third (unchanged, 15 points behind the leader)

Total season passes: 2,135

Percentage of quality passes: 59.6 percent

What he said: "We had a top-three car all day. Didn't have the handling that I wanted most of the time, but we still had the speed to make up for it. It's finally good to have a fuel-mileage race somewhat go our way. We've been struggling with these things in the past, so it teaches you you've got to be prepared for these because they seem to happen more often than not. ... It's just everyone ran this last 120 laps or something three-quarter throttle. Nobody was able to really push it because nobody was comfortable with where they were at with the fuel mileage. ... It's tough because I'm sitting there thinking, I can go by this 15 [race winner Clint Bowyer] or catch him just about any time I want, but [crew chief] Darian [Grubb] is screaming at me to back it off."

Greg Biffle

Charlotte finish: Fourth (Fifth straight top-15 at Charlotte)

Chase standings: Sixth (up three spots, 43 points behind the leader)

Total season passes: 2,580

Percentage of quality passes: 68.1 percent

What he said: "It's amazing that those guys can go that far on a tank of gas. It's just unbelievable, but we had a really fast car. The 3M Ford Fusion -- a top-five finish -- we finished fourth here in the spring in the 600, but I just want to win one of these races. ... Our car was not that good early, and in the middle part of the race we were really loose, but we came back from it. We started turning the fastest lap times, but we had so much track position to make up, and then you can't beat the fuel mileage. We're just not in that game to be able to go as far as those guys were going. It hurts to get beat on fuel mileage, but we were the first car behind the three that made it on fuel mileage, so I feel pretty good with fourth."

Joey Logano

Charlotte finish: Ninth (Seventh top-15 finish in eight career Charlotte races)

Points standings: 17th (up one spot)

Total season passes: 2,627

Percentage of quality passes: 40.7 percent

What he said: "We might have been able to finish a few positions better than we did, but I think we had a solid top-10 car all night long. This is just a tough track that is all about track position and passing is tough here. These cars are so aero-sensitive that running down guys and passing them, even if you are faster, is tough. ... We just need to start the runs off better. I felt like early in the runs [Saturday night], especially on restarts, we would just lose some spots and then 20 or 30 laps into it, we would start gaining ground on everyone. ... We held on as long [with gas] as we could, but we knew we couldn't make it, so it was worth just getting a splash of gas and trying to hold on there at the end."

Tony Stewart

Charlotte finish: 13th (Fourth top-15 in past six races)

Chase standings: Eighth (down one spot, 50 points out of the lead)

Total season passes: 2,723

Percentage of quality passes: 51.2 percent

What he said about his early-race mishap: "I was following the 2 car [of Brad Keselowski] there, and he had to check up big time, for whatever was going on in front of him. Man, I drilled him. And the further back you were, the worse it made it. It really screwed up the nose of our race car, but I'm really proud of our guys. This Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy was pretty good. That's the best we've been here for a while. I thought we might get a top-10 out of it [Saturday night], but I'll take this. It's a lot better than we were in the spring [when he finished 25th]."

* Video: Restart leads to damage for Stewart, Burton

Jamie McMurray

Charlotte finish: 17th (Best result in seven races)

Points standings: 20th (unchanged)

Total season passes: 3,264

Percentage of quality passes: 43.1 percent

What he said: "We had a pretty good McDonald's Chevy [Saturday night]. Our guys had good pit stops and made some good changes on the car. Once we got caught a lap down, there weren't many cautions and we couldn't get in position for the lucky dog. We were able to pick up a few spots in the end on fuel mileage though. I am proud of the effort from all of our guys"

Ryan Newman

Charlotte finish: 20th (Fifth top-20 in past six races)

Points standings: 14th (unchanged)

Total season passes: 2,210

Percentage of quality passes: 47.4 percent

What he said: "We definitely took a hit with the engine change [which sent him to the back of the field after qualifying third]. We had a really fast Quicken Loans Chevrolet in practice and in qualifying here at Charlotte, and it wasn't the same in the race. Losing that practice on Friday night because of the engine hurt us, too, because we never quite got the car to handle the way I needed it to so that I could make up the ground that we had lost having to start in the back. It was a tough night for us."

Jeff Burton

Charlotte finish: 28th (Worst Charlotte finish in a decade)

Points standings: 19th (unchanged)

Total season passes: 3,135

Percentage of quality passes: 36.7 percent

What he said: "That is just racing's version of bad luck right there. We had a good car after final practice on Friday and had to change engines. Coming through the field, we were caught up in that wreck [the same one on Lap 17 that damaged Stewart's car], on a restart of all things, and there was nothing I could've done to avoid it. These No. 31 guys never gave up. They fixed the car quickly, and we ran competitive lap times for the remainder of the race."

Bobby Labonte

Charlotte finish: 32nd (Worst Charlotte finish in 14 years)

Points standings: 24th (unchanged)

Total season passes: 2,127

Percentage of quality passes: 12.2 percent

What he said: "This was a really tough race for us because we had a really good car at the beginning of the night. We had a flat tire [on Lap 21] that derailed our efforts, and then more bad luck later in the race. We will put this one behind us and work on doing a better job at Kansas Speedway."

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