|05/21/12 11:39AM||All Star Race, Bobby Labonte, Coca Cola Racing Team, NASCAR, Newman, Tony Stewart|
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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"
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 600.
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 lot."