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Coke drivers' hopes crumple at Kansas

October 22, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Many of the Coca-Cola Racing Family's cars left Kansas Speedway looking like dinged soda cans. The group's top finisher survived a pit mishap, collision and spin on Sunday.

Five other members of the contour bottle crew were involved in major mishaps during the race. In honor of the wreck-filled day, the number of races drivers did not finish this season is included.

Tony Stewart

Kansas finish: Fifth

Chase standings: Seventh (up one spot, 47 points behind leader)

Season DNFs: Two

Tony Stewart overcame starting 33rd and three problems for a top-five finish that keeps his title hopes alive. He sped into the top 20, but his crew left a wedge wrench in the car after a pit stop on Lap 74 (Video). Ten laps later, he collided with fellow Coca-Cola driver Jeff Burton. Stewart crept back inside the top 15, then spun on Lap 166. He surged after restarting 28th with less than 100 laps to go and used a two-tire stop to gain track position.

What he said: "An eventful day. Happy to get a top-five out of it. We have a ways to go, but I'm really proud of our guys. We had stuff early on in the race and our guys never quit. ... We've got a little bit of work to do, but we're gaining on it. We worked with a little different package this week. We still didn't get it right, but we got pretty close."

Denny Hamlin

Kansas finish: 13th

Chase standings: Third (unchanged, 20 points behind leader)

Season DNFs: Four

Hamlin smacked the wall in practice Thursday but qualified ninth. He was running in the top five when he took four tires on a stop when other drivers took two. Hamlin slid back, then had to conserve fuel on each run, making advancing positions difficult. He gained a race-best five spots in the final 27 laps to remain within a good shot at a title with four races left.

What he said: "Frustration -- just never got a chance to race. Every run I either had to save fuel or get caught by a caution and then go a lap down, get a wave-around and ... got caught by two cautions [Sunday]. The challenge is your track position. Nobody could pass anyone after five laps on the restart, so you just -- you do the best you can for five laps to pass guys and then you just ride around in circles until someone blows a tire. It's just too hard to do, so we missed it [Sunday], both with the car and strategy."

Jamie McMurray

Kansas finish: 15th

Points standings: 20th (unchanged)

Season DNFs: Four

McMurray was one of two Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers to come away from Kansas fairly unscathed. Still, he had to battle back from two laps down for his best finish in nine races.

What he said: "Our guys worked really hard. ... We were forced to short-pit early and got caught two laps down when the caution came out. Our guys thrashed and never gave up; we got position back on the lead lap and just battled through all the cautions to bring home a 15th-place finish."

Joey Logano

Kansas finish: 19th

Points standings: 18th (down one spot)

Season DNFs: Two

Logano started eighth and remained in the top 10 for more than 60 laps. His car grew tighter as the race eased into the midpoint, and he bounced between the edge of the top 20 and inside the top 15 the rest of the way. Still, Logano finished as one of two Coca-Cola family members not on NASCAR's crash list at Kansas.

What he said: "You don't get any more frustrating days than that right there. I don't know what was wrong. ... The car was tight at the beginning of the race, but it seemed like something we could live with and work through. Everything we did just made the car worse. The more I was around guys, the tighter the car would be. ... You don't want to be as good as we were in testing and practice and come out of here with a 19th-place finish, especially with all of the crashes and cautions that we were able to avoid."

Greg Biffle

Kansas finish: 27th

Chase standings: 11th (down five spots, 62 points behind the leader)

Season DNFs: Zero

Biffle started 11th and spent 146 of the first 176 laps in the top 15. He then spun through the grass, causing heavy damage to his Ford and to his title chances (Video). He came back to the track and gained a few spots, but Biffle tumbled to near the bottom of the Chase standings.

What he said: "I lost it man. It got away from me off of [Turn] 4 there, and we wrecked it. The hard tires contributed to [all the cautions] and the new pavement. I knew it was going to be like that, and the Nationwide race was kind of like that, but I didn't plan on it being me. I don't know what happened. That is the thing; they get away from you so quick. I had no indication, no little wiggle, no sideways anything. It just took off. It just got away from me, and it killed our day."

Jeff Burton

Kansas finish: 28th

Points standings: 19th (unchanged)

Season DNFs: Two

Burton had to start from the rear with a new engine after qualifying 20th. He cruised inside the top 20, but he collided with Stewart on Lap 84. Burton was able to return to the track. His 28th-place finish was his poorest result at Kansas in five years.

What he said: "I'm not exactly thrilled about what happened [Sunday] on the track, and if the roles were reversed, that accident would've never happened. I am proud of the CAT crew for working hard to get me back out on the track to finish the race for the second straight weekend. I can't say enough about their never-give-up attitudes. I love short-track racing, so Martinsville Speedway couldn't come at a better time next weekend."

Ryan Newman

Kansas finish: 30th

Points standings: 15th (down one spot)

Season DNFs: Five

Like Biffle, Newman started toward the front and spent much of the race in the top 15 -- 164 of the first 183 laps -- before crashing. He collided with Kyle Busch, then was collected with Sam Hornish Jr. His finish was his worst at Kansas in five years.

What he said: "I'm not real sure what happened out there other than the fact that [Kyle Busch] got loose, and I ended up hitting him in the middle of [Turns] 3 and 4 and spinning him around. Then we got clobbered by the No. 22 [of Hornish]. ... It's kind of treacherous on the tires."

Danica Patrick

Kansas finish: 32nd

Season DNFs: Two

Patrick qualified 40th but had to start from the rear with an engine change. She managed to run inside the top 20 before tangling with Landon Cassill on Lap 154. The wreck led to her worst finish since her debut at the Daytona 500.

* Patrick's attempt at retaliation backfires | Video

What she said: "I have just been really frustrated with the No. 83 [of Cassill]. He slammed into me on the front straight for no other reason than his radio communication, 'She was in the way.' I've always played fair. If it's one time, I can imagine it's frustration, but it's been quite a few times with him. At some point, I have to stand up for myself so this doesn't happen with other people. I chose [Sunday]."

Bobby Labonte

Kansas finish: 33rd

Points standings: 24th (unchanged)

Season DNFs: Two

Labonte started 22nd and hovered in the 20s before he received a speeding penalty on pit road on Lap 127. Some 15 laps later, he crashed and could not make repairs to get back on the track for his worst finish in 26 races.

What he said: "It's unfortunate that happened because we would have been okay. We'll look ahead to Martinsville. It should be a good track for us."

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