NASCAR Sprint Cup: 5 Good, 5 Bad at Coca-Cola 600
The boys of NASCAR were in their own backyard this week as they took to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the season's longest race.
For the ninth time in the 2012 Sprint Cup season a different face went to Victory Lane. Only this time, it was a driver with a coveted new ride taking the checkered flag. But he wasn't the only winner as several other drivers survived the 600-mile event and earned good finishes.
However, not everybody could survive the war of attrition as several stars fell out of contention early, including a pair of drivers on separate teams who suffered a very rare problem.
Who was good and who was bad in the Coca-Cola 600? We've got you covered!
Good: Kasey Kahne
What a difference a few weeks makes.
Just six short races ago, Kasey Kahne sat 31st in the Sprint Cup standings after another atrocious bout of bad luck at Martinsville.
Sunday night, Kahne stood in Victory Lane for the first time with new team Hendrick Motorsports on the heels of his sixth-straight top 10 finish.
His third Coca-Cola 600 win bumped Kahne up one rung in the standings to 15th, and his recent tear has moved him up 16 spots in the standings since Martinsville.
Don't look now, but Kahne may just be the best driver in NASCAR at this moment.
Bad: Jimmie Johnson
To be fair, Jimmie Johnson wasn't that bad Sunday night at Charlotte.
Actually, Johnson was quite good as his No. 48 car ran up towards the front most of the evening. Most, but not all.
Late in the going of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, Johnson's crew made a mistake on pit road when somebody (presumably the jackman) gave Johnson the OK to leave his pit box while the team was still fueling the car.
Johnson dragged the gas can out of his box and was forced to come back in for a penalty, dropping him off the lead lap and relegating him to an 11th-place finish.
Good: Joe Gibbs Racing
In a season where the main argument is whether Hendrick or Roush is the better race team, another team made a pretty strong case Sunday night.
That would be Joe Gibbs Racing.
After placing all three cars in the top 10 two weeks ago at Darlington, JGR nearly took home the checkered flag at Charlotte as Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished second and third, respectively.
Both drivers also led laps on Sunday.
For Hamlin, Sunday's finish marked his second runner-up finish in as many points races, while Busch earned his fourth-consecutive finish of fourth or better.
Bad: Joey Logano
Wait, there's a third JGR driver?
Joey Logano came into Sunday's 600-miler looking to build off the momentum of his Darlington top 10. Instead, he showed the NASCAR world that perhaps he's not ready to be let off the hook just yet.
Logano is in a contract year and could be relegated to the NASCAR Nationwide Series next year if he doesn't pick up his performance soon.
Logano's 23rd-place effort on Sunday marked his third finish outside the top 20 in the last four races as he finished the night three laps down.
Good: Greg Biffle
The Biff is back.
After a lackluster 12th-place effort two weeks ago at Darlington, Greg Biffle came back with a vengeance at Charlotte as he dominated for most of the night.
Biffle led over 200 laps in a tribute paint scheme dedicated to the troops and ended the night in fourth.
For Biffle, Sunday's performance was a necessary one as the No. 16 had failed to finish in the top 10 in two of the last three races prior to Charlotte.
Biffle built on his points lead and now holds a 10-point gap over second place Matt Kenseth.
Bad: Melted Hubs
Two drivers. Two teams. One bizarre problem.
AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose each came out of the Coca-Cola 600 for an extended period of time within 30 laps of each other due to brake failure.
Actually, it was more complicated than that. Both drivers were victims of "broken left-front hubs," which presumably melted off the left-front wheel of each car and got caught in the left-front brake.
The hub pieces locked up the brakes so bad on Allmendinger's car that even when he tried to drive with all 800 horsepower back in the garage area, the car would not budge.
It was a strange problem indeed and one that hopefully will not plague these drivers again.
Good: Jeff Gordon
He did it! He finally did it!
After four weeks of frustration that included an accident, an engine failure and four blown tires, Jeff Gordon finally managed to make it through an entire race without incident.
Ironically, it just happened to be the season's longest race at that.
Gordon ran in the top 10 for a good share of the night after some early pit strategy got him up towards the front. He ended the night in seventh, marking his first top 10 since Texas.
The finish moved Gordon up two rungs in the standings to 22nd.
Bad: Tony Stewart
It was not a good night to be Tony Stewart.
The No. 14 struggled throughout most of Sunday night's race at Charlotte before contact on pit road from Brad Keselowski turned Stewart's car backwards, causing him to lose valuable time during the green-flag cycle.
Stewart would end the night in 25th, three laps off the pace.
Smoke's effort on Sunday night marked the second time in three races he's finished outside the top 20, as well as the third time in his last six events.
Aric Almirola finished 16th Sunday night at Charlotte.
It wasn't a bad effort for the No. 43, but it does continue a very poor trend for drivers who start first in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
It has been 29 races since a driver won from the pole position at NASCAR's top level, tying the all-time record for a winless drought by pole-sitters.
Ryan Newman was the last driver to win from the pole back at New Hampshire in 2011.
Should the pole-sitter fail to win next Sunday at Dover, it will break the record established in back 1990.
Good: The Troops
We always enjoy watching the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.
But that great event, as well as all the others we enjoy week after week, would not be possible if not for the sacrifices made by our brave troops.
For all of those who serve or served, we are grateful beyond words. Especially to those who gave everything.
Thank you for all that you've done, and all that you do.