Newman’s 10th-place finish best among Coca-Cola Family

Drivers flat at All-Star Race

By Andrew Shain, Special to NASCAR.COM

May 21, 2012 12:41 PM, EDT

The Coca-Cola Racing Family who won six of the season’s first 11 races could not muster much fizz at the Sprint All-Star Race.

Ryan Newman‘s 10th-place finish was tops among the red-and-white crew who had accounted for four of the top-nine qualifiers.

The highlight of the evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway was Bobby Labonte‘s selection by fans for a spot in the All-Star Race.

The family will look to return the contour bottle to Victory Lane next week at the Coca-Cola 600.

To get in the spirit of NASCAR’s longest race,
Coca-Cola is inviting fans with race tickets to walk around Charlotte
Motor Speedway; see family drivers Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart; and enjoy a cookout. For the event at 11 a.m. Friday, enter at gates 4, 5a and 26 or the Turn 4 tunnel.

Ryan Newman (Autostock)

Ryan Newman

All-Star finish: 10th

Newman battled an ill-handling car to complete
his second consecutive 10th-place finish. He qualified second and was
third after the first segment. Then his car became loose. He fell as far
back as 13th. Newman said the No. 39 became dialed in toward the end of
the final 20-lap segment, and he was able to gain three spots in the
race-ending 10-lap dash.

What he said: “Honestly, it was too
little, too late for us. The Tornados Chevy was way too loose, but we
finally got the car right during that last caution period. But in the
end, we didn’t have the track position to go with it. … . I just
didn’t have any confidence in the car for most of the race. We got it
right there at the end, and I think that’s going to help us figure out
where we need to be going into [Sunday’s] race.”

Tony Stewart (Autostock)

Tony Stewart

All-Star finish: 17th

Stewart’s chances of a good race evaporated soon
after the start when his car became tight. The ninth-fastest qualifier
started falling back and smacked the wall on Lap 15. He finished 18th
after the first 20-lap segment. Adjustments made during the pit stop
helped him gain six spots in the next segment. Then he smashed the nose
of his car at the start of the third segment, which hurt the handling
and sent him to the outer fringes of the top 20. Stewart’s 17th-place
finish tied his worst performance in 14 All-Star events and ended a
streak of five straight top-five finishes in it.

What he said: “It just wasn’t very good.
We just missed it [Saturday]. We’re not going to hit it every week, and
if you’re going to miss it, you’d rather miss it on a night [with no
points at stake] than next week.”

Bobby Labonte (Autostock)

Bobby Labonte

All-Star Finish: 19th

Labonte’s team almost didn’t come to the Sprint
Showdown because the race was not in the team’s budget, especially after
wrecking a car during a tire test in New Hampshire. Good thing he
entered. Despite finishing 12th in the qualifier, fans voted Labonte
into the All-Star Race — a bright spot in a tough season where he is
27th in points. He failed to make the All-Star Race for the first time
in 16 years in 2011. The 2000 Cup champion started from the back,
reached as high as 17th and brought home his car in one piece at 19th.

What he said: “It was a great way to
learn some things for [Sunday’s] Coca-Cola 600. We tried a bunch of
different things. We were tight in the center in the Showdown, and that
carried forward into the All-Star. We made some changes and then undid
the changes and tried a few different things to see how the car would
respond. We also tried to take only two tires instead of four at one
point to see how that worked. We took care of the car and used both
races as a test session.”

Denny Hamlin (Autostock)

Denny Hamlin

All-Star finish: 20th

Hamlin could not take advantage of his best
starting position in six career All-Star starts to continue his streak
of top-10 finishes, which ended at three. He was in the top three after
the first 40 laps, including leading 16 of the second 20-lap segment,
but the car’s handling started going away. When he could not crack 10th
place, Hamlin played it safe during the final 10 laps. His poor finish
came despite having the fourth-best average running position during the
All-Star Race.

What he tweeted: “Well, I warned ya that
[Saturday] could be ugly. Car was a handful all night. We will come back
next week with a new plan.”

Greg Biffle (Autostock)

Greg Biffle

All-Star finish: 22nd

After his hot start to the season, Biffle can be
excused for a bad evening. The points leader for the past nine race
weeks had a top-five or top-10 car though the first three segments of
the All-Star Race. But Biffle’s engine popped into a fireball and filled
the driver’s compartment with smoke midway through the fourth segment.
His Roush-Fenway teammate, Carl Edwards,
also blew an engine in the second segment. The team was experimenting
with its engines on the non-points event. Biffle’s finish was his worst
in nine career All-Star events.

What his team tweeted: “Wasn’t our night, but looking forward to next week’s Coca-Cola 600 and glad Greg is okay.”

Jamie McMurray (Autostock)

Jamie McMurray

Showdown finish: Third

McMurray failed to make his first All-Star Race
in four years after AJ Allmendinger passed him in the finals laps of the
Sprint Showdown for the last transfer spot. After qualifying 19th and
starting at the rear, he gained 16 spots in the first 10 laps and was
second for much of the second half of the 40-lap shootout. But his car
lost some handling and could not hold off Allmendinger, who nudged
McMurray out of the way for a ticket to the All-Star Race.

What he tweeted: “Had a chance [Saturday], just too loose in the 2nd segment. We are still having some steering issues.”

Joey Logano (Autostock)

Joey Logano

Showdown finish: Sixth

Logano, whose season seems to be coming around
with two recent Nationwide wins and a top-10 at Darlington, needed a few
laps to get going after starting 13th. He made his way into the top 10
by the halfway mark. But he could not get any higher than sixth and
missed his second consecutive All-Star Race. In 2009 and 2010, he had
two top-eight finishes in the All-Star Race.

What he tweeted: “Tough night … but we learned a lot for the 600 next week”

Jeff Burton (Autostock)

Jeff Burton

Showdown finish: Eighth

Burton looked like he had a good shot of making
his first All-Star Race in three years after qualifying fourth for the
Showdown. He was third midway through the race, but he took two tires on
a pit stop to win track position and the car became tight in the middle
of turns. He slid back to eighth. Burton could not get better position
the rest of the way in what amounted to a teaching experience for the

What he tweeted: “We had a good car
[Saturday]. [Crew chief] Drew Blickensderfer played the perfect
strategy, [the] car just wasn’t as good on 2 tires. We still learned a

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