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Hot run in the desert

November 12, 2012, Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Coca-Cola Racing Family places seven members in the top 20 at Phoenix

The Coca-Cola Racing Family is coming off a hot week in the desert, with seven of nine members finishing in the top 20 at Phoenix, led by a trio in the top-10.

Coca-Cola drivers' will try to beat their series-bests in the last race of the season at Homestead.

Denny Hamlin

Phoenix finish: Second

Chase standings: Fifth (up two spots)

Best season qualifying run: Three poles (California, Indianapolis and Dover)

Best season finish: Five wins (Phoenix, Kansas, Bristol, Atlanta and New Hampshire)

Hamlin grabbed his first top-10 in four races after qualifying third. He never fell below seventh place at the track where he won in the spring.

What he said: "We're running on such hard tires. You can't get a grip on it, and it makes for exciting racing like we saw [Sunday]. We felt bad -- wish we could have pulled off the sweep here. But, still one-two is pretty good."

Ryan Newman

Phoenix finish: Fifth

Season standings: 14th (unchanged)

Best season qualifying run: Second (Daytona, Talladega)

Best season finish: One win (Martinsville)

Newman nabbed his fifth top-five in his past six Phoenix races and his first top-10 in five races. He crossed the finish backwards after getting spun on the last lap. Newman needs to qualify first at Homestead to extend his streak of 11 consecutive seasons with a pole.

What he said: "Well, my race car is junk. That was a good run for our Quicken Loans Chevrolet, Veteran's Day, a special paint scheme, really proud of everything there, but really disappointed in the way NASCAR handled that last lap there. That was not fair to the drivers at all."

Greg Biffle

Phoenix finish: Seventh

Chase standings: Seventh (up three spots)

Best season qualifying run: Three poles (Bristol, Darlington, Charlotte)

Best season finish: Two wins (Texas, Michigan)

Biffle collected his fifth top-10 in his past six races after spending much of the race outside the top 20. His average running position was 22nd, best at Phoenix, but he gained a race-best 13 spots in the final 30 laps. He also survived the last-lap crash that brought a handful of damaged cars across the finish line.

What he said: "I took a pretty hard hit right there at the end, but other than that, it was actually a hard-fought day. We came back from not having a very good car to being really good. We kept working on it and working on it, and I never thought we'd get that good, but we probably had a car that could run with the leaders at the end. That's remarkable."

Jeff Burton

Phoenix finish: 13th

Season standings: 19th (unchanged)

Best season qualifying run: Fourth (Martinsville)

Best season finish: Second (Daytona)

Burton started at the rear of the field when he had go to a backup car after a practice crash and made his way into the top 10 within 60 laps. He slid back outside the top 30 before gaining ground for his best finish in five races.

What he said: "Just a solid effort this entire weekend from this No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team. We wrecked two cars on Friday and Saturday, and for these guys to come back and give this kind of effort was amazing."

Bobby Labonte

Phoenix finish: 15th

Season standings: 23rd (unchanged)

Best season qualifying run: 15th (Charlotte)

Best season finish: Ninth (Martinsville)

Labonte gathered his second top-20 at Phoenix this season by rallying from starting 30th and surging seven positions in the final 30 laps.

What he said: "Nobody gave up, the guys worked hard, and we are leaving PIR with a top-15 finish. We survived [Sunday] and are glad to leave here with the car in one piece. It was wild there at the end. We'll get ready this week for Homestead."

Danica Patrick

Phoenix finish: 17th

Best season qualifying run: 23rd (Atlanta)

Best season finish: 17th (Phoenix)

Like other Coca-Cola drivers, Patrick came back from the pack for a decent finish. She started 37th and needed more than 200 laps to get inside the top 25 and nearly another 100 laps to get inside the top 20. A collision sent her into the wall just before the white-flag lap, and she limped to the checkered flag for her best finish of the season.

What he said: "I didn't know exactly how much damage I had or what it was, but just trying to limp to the line and get the finish on the lead lap, whatever that was. Still our best finish, but you always want more. I was 13th I think or something right around there, and that would have been a really good finish. Shoot, some days I would take that in a Nationwide car."

Tony Stewart

Phoenix finish: 19th

Chase standings: Ninth (down one position)

Best season qualifying run: One pole (Atlanta)

Best season finish: Three wins (Las Vegas, California, Daytona)

Stewart started ninth and hung around the top-15 before he spun out on Lap 282. He lost a lap that he gained back by the end of the race.

Jamie McMurray

Phoenix finish: 23rd

Season standings: 20th (unchanged)

Best season qualifying run: Ninth (Texas)

Best season finish: Seventh (Bristol)

McMurray started 18th and struggled to stay within the top-30 because of an ill-handling car. He earned his fifth-straight top-25 finish.

What he said: "We fought with the balance of the Bass Pro Shops/Allstate Chevy all day. The guys did a great job in pits, but the long green-flag runs didn't play into our strategy. We'll continue working hard as we head to final race of the season in Miami next weekend."

Joey Logano

Phoenix finish: 27th

Season standings: 17th (unchanged)

Best season qualifying run: One pole (Pocono)

Best season finish: One win (Pocono)

Logano wrestled with a loose car after starting 15th, but after adjustments, he reached sixth place with less than 10 laps remaining. He was collected in Jeff Gordon's retaliation against Clint Bowyer.

* Bowyer-Gordon feud escalates | Video

What he said: "We had a top-five finish just taken away from us because another driver wanted to settle a score and didn't think about the other people that would get caught up in it. And that is exactly what happened. We got caught up in it. It wasn't what Dollar General and my team guys deserved [Sunday]. We had a good car. We just had to keep working on it and working on it to make it better. By the end of the day, we had it as good as it had been all day long."

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