Coca-Cola Racing Family Roundup: New Hampshire
September 24, 2013, Taylor Starer, NASCAR.com
With the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway being the second Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race this season, drivers had to kick it into gear to start seeing positive movement in points.
Greg Biffle led the Coca-Cola Racing Family with a third-place finish at New Hampshire, bumping him up six spots in the Chase standings to fifth.
Denny Hamlin almost saw the top 10 this week with a 12th-place finish after qualifying 14th.
Meanwhile, Joey Logano improved from Chicagoland, but still not enough for a top-10 finish. Starting in the sixth position, Logano couldn’t keep up and eventually finished 14th.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Richmond:
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: After struggling at Chicagoland and finishing 16th, Biffle knew he had to make an impact at New Hampshire to see positive movement in the Chase standings. Biffle made the most dramatic jump in the standings this week by finishing third at New Hampshire. Starting 10th in the field, Biffle eventually grabbed third from Kyle Busch at Lap 259 and managed to hold off a hounding Jimmie Johnson for the rest of the race. Biffle stood 11th in the Chase standings prior to the race, but after his third-place finish, he now holds fifth with 2,073 points.
Quotable: “It was a miracle. We didn’t pass anybody in the pits, we passed them all on the race track. I feel really good about how far the team has come. We had great pit stops, but we just got good at the end and our car really, really took off. We were able to drive by those guys and get up to third. We probably reeled in the 20 a full straightaway almost and the 18 -- catching them -- so it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time even though we finished third. It was about to be good. The 18 was gonna catch the 20 in the next few laps and I was probably gonna get to the 18s bumper, so it was a lot of fun. I just wish it was the 325, instead of the 300.”
His standing: Biffle is fifth in the standings with 2,073 points.
Outlook: Going into the third Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway, Biffle needs to hold onto this momentum while he can. Biffle already has earned two wins at Dover in 2005 and 2008, and if he keeps up the pace, perhaps 2013.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: This was one of Hamlin’s best races in a while. Coming off of Chicagoland with a 33rd-place finish, Hamlin stepped it up at New Hampshire and drove across the start/finish line 12th after starting in the 14th position.
Quotable: Hamlin was unavailable for comment.
His standing: Hamlin is 25th in the standings with 528 points.
Outlook: Although Hamlin is not in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, perhaps he still can hold onto this momentum going into Dover and find a top-10 finish. In his career, Hamlin has earned two top-five finishes and five top-10s at Dover.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Anything could have been better for Logano this week after his disappointing 37th-place finish at Chicagoland. Logano’s finish this week might not have been as high as he would have liked, but at least it’s some positive movement compared to last week. Logano originally started sixth, but couldn’t keep up with the veterans and eventually slid back to 14th, right behind fellow Chase contender, Kurt Busch.
Quotable: “This is Loudon for me. It was nothing different. It’s just such a tricky race track to get around. At times we had a top-seven or eighth-place car, and I think we did even at the end of the race, but we took four there at the end because when we took two earlier we were really slow. So we thought we would be on the aggressive side instead of being on the defense side. Anytime you’re on defense you have the chance of getting wrecked and we’d rather be aggressive and passing cars. I didn’t have as good of a last restart as I needed. I got passed by a couple and passed about three instead, so you had to be in the right lane on that last restart to get a few more and we probably could have finished in the top 10 today. But it’s just so hard to pass. It is the hardest race track in the world to pass. It’s the most frustrating place I think I’ve ever been to, so I’m just glad to leave.”
His standing: Logano is 12th in the standings with 2,042 points.
Outlook: At the start of the Chase, the 23-year-old had as good a shot as anyone to win the championship, but after his not-so-hot past two finishes, Logano needs to step it up in Dover to prove that he belongs in the Chase. Logano has one top-five finish at Dover, and maybe he will gain another this coming race.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Coming out of Chicagoland finishing 10th, this week’s Coors Light Pole Award winner Newman was in the perfect position to win at New Hampshire, but only led for two laps. Kasey Kahne quickly gained the lead over Newman in the fourth turn of Lap 2 as Jeff Gordon followed. At Lap 214, Newman had faded all the way back to 26th running as the last car on the lead lap. Newman made up for some of his fall and eventually finished 16th.
Quotable: “I still don’t understand what happened with the car. It just never drove the same after we won the pole on Friday afternoon. Even in practice on Saturday. Glad we got back up to 16th after the deal on pit road, but I don’t know. We’ll head to Dover and see what we can get.”
His standing: Newman is ninth in the standings with 2,064 points.
Outlook: Going into Dover, Newman should feel confident knowing that he’s already won three times at this track -- twice in 2003 and once in 2004. He currently sits 47 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, so a win at Dover could bump Newman up to a more competitive playing field with other Chase contenders.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick struggled at New Hampshire with a car that didn’t have the speed she needed to make an impact on the race. She finished 27th in her 38th career Sprint Cup start.
Quotable: “It's disappointing. It’s something to learn from and put in the notebook for next time. The car just never felt ‘in’ the track today. It wasn’t for a lack of effort by Tony Gibson and the guys, but it just wasn’t quite where we needed it to be. We took two tires on the last stop, but that last restart hurt us and we lost a lot of spots. It’s disappointing, but we’ll move on.”
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 514 points.
Outlook: The best Patrick has finished at Dover was 24th earlier this season. Her constant 20-something finishes are holding her back from moving anywhere in the standings. A decent qualifying position at Dover could set her up nicely for the competition.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart missed his seventh consecutive race this past weekend and watched Mark Martin pilot his No. 14 Chevrolet to a 23rd-place finish. Stewart is still nursing his broken leg and won’t return in 2013.
His standing: Stewart is 23rd in the standings with 594 points.
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