News & Media

Labonte sizzles, Hamlin fizzles

October 30, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Labonte gets his best finish of 2012, while Hamlin damages his Chase hopes

Bobby Labonte had his best finish of the season to lead the Coca-Cola Racing Family at Martinsville, but the race likely ended the title chances for members of the contour bottle crew.

Denny Hamlin's championship hopes died along with the electrical power in his No. 11 Toyota as mechanical problems pushed him from third to fifth in the Chase standings.

Five Coca-Cola drivers finished among the top 20 at the 0.526-mile short track.

This week, find out how many top-fives and top-10s the red-and-white racers have amassed this season, along with their average start and finish.

Also, send questions for the Coca-Cola Chase drivers -- Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle -- along with Elliott Sadler on Twitter using the hashtag #CokeRacingHangout. The drivers will answer some of them during a Google+ Hangout from Texas Motor Speedway. Follow the Q&A on Twitter at @CocaColaRacing starting at 1 p.m. Nov. 3.

Bobby Labonte

Martinsville finish: Ninth

Season standings: 24th (unchanged)

Top fives: 0

Top 10s: 2

Average start: 26.3

Average finish: 22.4

Labonte used one of his best qualifying runs of the season to catapult himself into his best finish in 50 races and his best result at Martinsville in six years. He spent 205 laps in the top 15 -- his second-most this year behind the 371 laps he collected in the first Martinsville race.

What he said: "Really proud of everyone Sunday. The JTG Daugherty Racing team did a good job, and we had good pit stops all day. We were able to leave Martinsville with our best finish of the season. It feels good to leave there with a top-10 finish."

Greg Biffle

Martinsville finish: 10th

Chase standings: Ninth (up two positions, 69 points behind the leader)

Top fives: 11

Top 10s: 18

Average start: 9.8

Average finish: 10.5

Biffle turned his worst starting position in 55 races (30th) into a top-10 finish and his best result in the past five races at Martinsville.

What he said: "It was a great day, but the second-to-last set of tires went the wrong way for us. I just didn't have the grip. It would slide the front and spin the back and then we pitted again and a lot of guys stayed out or took two. That would have been a great option for us, other than we really felt like we needed to put four on to be competitive, or we could have stayed out with Brad [Keselowski] because we were faster than Brad and those guys. But it was a pretty good day overall."

Ryan Newman

Martinsville finish: 11th

Season standings: 15th (unchanged)

Top fives: 4

Top 10s: 12

Average start: 9.8

Average finish: 15.8

Newman rallied from two laps down in 24th place to 11th in the final 75 laps with the fastest average pit stops of the day. By doing so, he showed his strength at Martinsville, where he won in the spring.

What he said: "Our car was entirely too tight, and it wasn't working from about the second run of the race on. We made wedge and track bar changes, and it didn't help. We made air-pressure changes, and it didn't change anything. Nothing was working, but we kept taking big swings at it, and we kept trying to fix it. We got two laps down, but we were able to use the wave-around to our advantage and get back on the lead lap."

Joey Logano

Martinsville finish: 16th

Season standings: 17th (up one position)

Top fives: 2

Top 10s: 12

Average start: 12.3

Average finish: 17.4

Logano survived a couple of pit road mishaps -- a speeding penalty and a broken air gun that required a second stop -- that pushed him twice into 30th position. He grabbed his sixth top-20 finish in eight Martinsville races.

What he said: "I feel like we could have had a much better finish had we just been in the right lane there at the end of the race. [Crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] made a good two-tire call late to get us track position. We started eighth on that last restart, and like what normally happens here at Martinsville, the outside lane just didn't go. I was working hard to try and get down into the inside, but there was just a huge line of cars. We restarted eighth and ended up 14th or 15th before we found a hole."

Jamie McMurray

Martinsville finish: 17th

Season standings: 20th (unchanged)

Top fives: 0

Top 10s: 3

Average start: 21.5

Average finish: 20.1

McMurray battled a loose car during much of the race, though he managed to break into the top-10 twice before nabbing his third-straight top-20 finish -- his best run since June.

What he said: "We brought a brand new car [Sunday], and I would say overall I think that we had a really good McDonald's Chevy. We had that one long green-flag run in the middle part of the race and ended up losing a lap, but our guys never quit, and we managed to get back on the lead lap and work for that 17th-place finish"

Jeff Burton

Martinsville finish: 22nd

Season standings: 19th (unchanged)

Top fives: 2

Top 10s: 6

Average start: 22.5

Average finish: 19.8

Burton could not capitalize on his best qualifying run (fourth) since the 2011 Daytona 500. He struggled with an ill-handling car and a pit-road penalty for a missing lug nut that pushed him to the edge of the top 30 before he fought his way forward.

What he tweeted: "Struggled early. Got back 2 14th. Had to pit for loose lug nut. Came back for 22nd. Can't b upset with my guys, they have been good all year"

Tony Stewart

Martinsville finish: 27th

Chase standings: 10th (down three positions, 71 points behind the leader)

Top fives: 11

Top 10s: 15

Average start: 18.0

Average finish: 13.6

Though he started seventh, Stewart could not overcome a tight-handling car and fell two laps down for just his fourth finish of 27th or worse in 28 Martinsville races.

What he said: "No matter what we did to the car -- and we made a lot of adjustments -- it didn't do anything to make it better."

Denny Hamlin

Martinsville finish: 33rd

Chase standings: Fifth (down two positions, 49 points behind the leader)

Top fives: 13

Top 10s: 16

Average start: 11.3

Average finish: 12.6

Hamlin was running in the top 10 when he was called for a pair of pit-road speeding penalties that pushed him toward 30th. He recovered both times, but then his car stalled with an electrical issue. Repairs left him 34 laps down at the end of the race and damaged his title shot.

* Hamlin's title hopes take a hit | Video

What he said: "Just to have to go through a day like that and it end like this is tough, especially on our best race track. Going through the adversity of speeding twice and still driving back to the front -- it's frustrating. What can you do? We broke a bolt on a master switch, and it ended our Chase chances. We'll try to turn the table and get a lot of wins. ... I've been in these Chases for seven years, and I've had my fair share of electrical issues and motor issues and things like that. All I can do is just drive my heart out, and if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. We'll have our time, it's just our time is not now."

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