The Hot 20 – Elder Gents and Past Winners Lead the Way to New Hampshire

If you want to make the Chase, maybe one should win at New Hampshire. Out of 43 drivers entered and scheduled to make up the field at Loudon this Sunday, a whopping 16 of them have won at New Hampshire. They include the only four-time winner, 47-year old Jeff Burton, slated to drive the 66 Toyota of Jay Robinson. Along side will be his team mate, 50-year-old Joe Nemechek and a winner there in 1999, driving the 87. Kids. The oldest driver at Loudon has never won there in 14 attempts, going back to 1993. At the age of 72, Morgan Shepherd will be there in Joe Falk’s 33 Chevy.

Among our hot 20, based on points and super-sizing the winner’s bonus from 3 to 25 points, a dozen have had the post-race bubbly shower here before. Jeff Gordon is our king of the hill and while both he and Jimmie Johnson both have three wins at Loudon, neither really do not need another one. In reality, a win means a Chase spot, and they are both in. Same goes for Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth probably does not need one and Ryan Newman is still sitting pretty, but the same can not be said for Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers or Kasey Kahne. Kurt Busch is not even in out Hot 20 but he has a win, though the same cannot be said for Tony Stewart.

As much as I think this system best showcases which drivers have actually been the most relevant during the season, I doubt NASCAR will adopt it. If I thought I had that much influence, you would never see ESPN’s current crew call another race, but I do not. Plus, giving a Chase spot to a New Hampshire winner would mean adios to the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards, none of whom have won there. The kids, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson, obviously have not. Take the free pass for last Sunday’s Daytona win, and Aric Almirola drops from 10th in the official rankings, drops from 19th on my list, down to 21st and with little hope of making the Chase. Of course, my method eliminates the Chase, and I have a feeling that Brian France would not be terribly receptive to that argument.

I think it a shame that wins put Almirola and Kurt Busch into a Chase place at the expense of Biffle and Vickers. Still, you cannot ignore the excitement that a single victory can bring to the driver, his team, or the fans. Winning is not easy, so maybe the reward is justified. Maybe.

That said, here is a look at my Hot 20 as they prepare for battle in New Hampshire this Sunday.

Ps – Driver – Pts – Wins
1 – Jeff Gordon – 673 – 1
2 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 668 – 2
3 – Jimmie Johnson – 662 – 3
4 – Brad Keselowski – 630 – 2
5 – Joey Logano – 590 – 2
6 – Carl Edwards – 587 – 2
7 – Matt Kenseth – 580 – 0
8 – Kevin Harvick – 558 – 2
9 – Kyle Busch – 546 – 1
10 – Ryan Newman – 534 – 0
11 – Paul Menard – 516 – 0
12 – Denny Hamlin – 515 – 1
13 – Clint Bowyer – 509 – 0
14 – Austin Dillon – 494 – 0
15 – Greg Biffle – 490 – 0
16 – Brian Vickers – 484 – 0
17 – Kyle Larson – 482 – 0
18 – Kasey Kahne – 482 – 0
19 – Aric Almirola – 474 – 1
20 – Marcos Ambrose – 472 – 0

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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