Hot 20 – Martinsville Could Showcase a Wildcard Cup Contender and a Dying Minor League

Will it bother anyone if, conceivably, one not so deserving wins the Cup title this year? I mean, if it is Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, or Brad Keselowski, I doubt few would argue the outcome. One could even argue that the likes of Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, or Ryan Newman would be a worthy champion.

However, what about Denny Hamlin? Even if he had taken part in the two events he missed in order to mend, Hamlin would not even be in our Top Ten. Okay, maybe if he had won them both, but what were the chances? Still, would he be deemed as a worthy holder of the title?

In a word, yes. Few, if any, are pointing out the fact that the World Series participants, the Giants and the Royals, are just a pair of wildcard teams. They were not the best in their division, and in fact each was just the fourth best in their respective leagues. Yet, as time goes on, fewer will remember that the Orioles, Tigers, Angels, Dodgers, Nationals and the Cardinals all had better runs in 2014. They did, but when it counted, they did not. Hamlin is among those who has, thus far, been there when it counted.

When you watch a truck race, you can count on 36 entries. Usually. Well, sometimes. Not next year, when they scale the field down to 32. My guess is that it has been an embarrassment for NASCAR to realize a full slate just five out of 18 events. Three times they could not even get 30. Of the 37 entered to compete at Martinsville, only 13 have run the entire series. Only 16 have run 15 or more. Two others in that number, Ron Hornaday and T.J. Bell, are not even entered for this weekend.

I wonder what the problem is. Eight races have been won by Cup regulars, six of them by Kyle Busch. He, along with Keselowski and Austin Dillon are not entered at Martinsville. Two time winner Erik Jones is not, along with Cole Custer. What has gone wrong?

We are told the economy is still suffering, that sponsorship is hard to come by. So, is the involvement of the Cup guys keeping at least some level of interest alive, or is it helping to kill it? Maybe an answer can be found in the Nationwide series, where only 17 drivers have run all 30 of those races to date. They have won just eight between them. Nineteen have been won by Cup regulars, led by the half dozen claimed by (guess who?) Kyle Busch. At least they will retain the 40 car field for next season, but for how much longer?

Me thinks NASCAR needs to rethink its model for the supposed minor leagues, where 27 of the 48 events have been claimed by “major leaguers” this season. If the trend of attrition in the number of teams and full-time drivers at its lower levels does not turn around soon, Cup might be all NASCAR has to offer.

*Winning bonus increased from 3 to 25 points.
BOLD = Current Chase contenders

1 – Jeff Gordon – 4 Wins – 1203 Points*
2 – Joey Logano – 5 – 1187
3 – Brad Keselowski – 5 – 1175
4 – Dale Earnhardt Jr – 3 – 1089
5 – Kevin Harvick – 3 – 1088
6 – Jimmie Johnson – 3 – 1033
7 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 1005
8 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 993
9 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 990
10 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 967
11 – Kasey Kahne – 1 – 923
12 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 903
13 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 900
14 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 885
15 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 878
16 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 877
17 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 859
18 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 830
19 – Paul Menard – 0 – 826
20 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 816

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.


  1. The truck series will not survive without a larger purse. The crowds are down in all 3 series mainly because it costs just too much to go. NASCAR needs to realize that people don’t make extra money anymore mainly because the federal government has taken away incentive to save as they are only interested in reelection, hence all the red numbers in our federal overspending leaving nothing for the common man who loves to go racing.


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