New Hampshire Motor Speedway is one of the most technical tracks on the circuit. Setups are at a premium, and one slight misfire on the 1-mile oval can set a driver back laps.
Even beyond that, other incidents come into play. Other drivers wrecking and fuel strategy, for example, are amplified in Loudon.
With that in mind, it was a pretty rough day for the Coca-Cola Racing Family on Sunday.
In the No. 16 Ford, Greg Biffle finished in 15th place, the best in the six-driver group. Every other driver ran into some sort of incident, although most were having pretty good days up until that point.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family in order of how they finished at Loudon:
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: Biffle was the highest-placing Coca-Cola Racing Family driver because he stayed in the middle of the pack and avoided trouble. He started the race 22nd and, while never cracking the top 10, finished a respectable 15th. On this day, it was more than enough.
Quotable: Biffle was unavailable for comment.
His standing: Biffle is eighth in the standings with 545 points.
Outlook: Biffle is firmly entrenched in eighth place right now. It'd take a disastrous result (like finishing last) for either him or seventh-place Kyle Busch and ninth-place Brad Keselowski for the Biff to gain or lose spots in the next race, which is at Indianapolis following the last open week of the season.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: For a while at Loudon, Hamlin looked like the Hamlin of old. His qualified seventh and had his No. 11 Toyota in the top five soon thereafter. Then it got bad. First, he was assessed a pit-road penalty due to a missing lug nut, putting him a lap down. He spent the next chunk of the race fighting to get back on the lead lap, which he eventually did and got into the top 10. When the final caution came, Hamlin elected to pit for fuel and fell to 19th. He avoided an out-of-fuel Tony Stewart on the green-white-checkered restart, but that set him back and he finished 21st.
Quotable: Hamlin was unavailable for comment.
His standing: Hamlin is 25th in the standings with 361 points.
Outlook: With seven races left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, perhaps it's time for Hamlin to put the brakes on the 2013 season and look forward to next year. He almost certainly won't be driving for a title, but it could be a good time for his team to experiment.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: There was good, then there was bad for Stewart. The good is that, in the No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart put himself in position to win the Camping World RV Sales 301. He led 84 consecutive laps near the end of the race and, although he had given up the lead, was still running second. The bad was that, on the final lap after a green-white-checkered restart, Stewart ran out of Sunoco fuel and finished 26th, the last driver on the lead lap.
Quotable: "It's hard to calculate how much you're saving on the cautions. Thought we were about three quarters of a lap to the good before that last caution. Obviously, didn't get as much gas saved as I thought we would. We had a good car all day. I was pretty excited because we were much better than we were yesterday (in practice). We got caught in traffic early on, but with some pit strategy, we got up front and stayed there. Track position was pretty important. We didn't have the best car, by any means. Even the ones who had the best cars, it looked like they had trouble passing, so track position was key. We weren't going to win the race, but if we hadn't run out of fuel, we were going to run second."
His standing: Stewart is 13th in the standings with 518 points.
Outlook: Stewart slipped out of the top 10 in the standings, but he still has a win to fall back on in the Wild Card chase. Still, his postseason hopes aren't a lock. In fact, they're up in the air with things so tight. The remaining tracks until the postseason, though, are ones where Stewart typically fares well.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Not only was Patrick involved in an on-track incident when she was spun by AJ Allmendinger, she later caused a wreck by misjudging her brakes. The result was sending Ricky Stenhouse Jr., her boyfriend, and Travis Kvapil into the wall.
Quotable: "What it felt like was either I misjudged the braking or everyone jammed up a little bit. I got sideways trying to slow down so that I didn't drive up into the back of anyone. I just got sideways and there is nothing you can do. The worst part is that you know, obviously, I didn't want to take anybody with me. I feel bad. What can I say? We were having a reasonable race and just didn't mean to do it."
Her standing: Patrick is 27th in the standings with 350 points.
Outlook: History will collide in Indianapolis when Patrick, as a female driver, takes the road at the Brickyard, one of the sport's most iconic tracks. The wide, long track suits Danica's abilities, too.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: It was a tough week all the way around for Newman. First, he learned that Stewart-Haas Racing was bringing on Kevin Harvick, leaving Newman without a ride for 2014. Then the driver actually began the race and didn't fare much better. A four-car incident on Lap 226 (of 302) dinged Newman's No. 39 Chevrolet enough to send him out of the race in 39th place.
Quotable: "We just got whacked by a bunch of guys -- the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) hit me first, the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) hit me next and then I guess it was Kurt (Busch) who went underneath three-wide and bypassed the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth, who) came and clipped us and knocked us into the fence and took himself out. That was the best I could tell. I don't know. I guess the No. 20 had a little influence on it. We kind of were in a bad spot, having a little bit older tires. We didn't have the greatest car, but have to thank WIX Filters for jumping on board and sponsoring us. That is not the press we wanted to give them, but just a lot of disrespect from a bunch of guys on restarts. What comes around goes around."
His standing: Newman is 19th in the standings with 487 points.
Outlook: Newman is out of the postseason picture for now, and his spot in the standings is more dire than it was two weeks ago. Seven races remain in the race to the Chase, and the veteran certainly needs at least one win to get in -- and maybe two.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: For the second consecutive week, Joey Logano blew a tire. For the second consecutive week, it resulted in a 40th-place finish. Those consecutive four-point showings dropped Logano from 10th in the standings to 18th.
Quotable: "We had a tire failure. That is two weeks in a row. I don't know. It is the same thing that happened to the 1 car (Jamie McMurray) in practice. The left rear tire blew out. It is something they need to look into because that is two cars this week and I am surprised it happened. It isn't like we touched anyone and rubbed it to make it go down, it just blew out. It is unfortunate for our Shell Pennzoil team. That is two weeks in a row we are going to have probably 43rd-place finishes. I am just mad right now."
His standing: Logano is 18th in the standings with 487 points.
Outlook: All the work Logano and his team put forth in getting into the top 10 was undone by issues beyond their control. Don't count him out yet, though.
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