Our Hot 20 is a look at those in contention to slip into one of the sixteen Chase spots. A win while in the Top 30 in points could prove to be just as good. Neither matters at the moment for Tony Stewart. Sadly, 2015 has been a year Smoke has been a participant, not a competitor.
Even Kurt Busch, suspended for the first three events, should make this list in another week or two. Ryan Newman is outside, but we all know why that is. Roush-Fenway cars have been duds most of the season, which explains Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne. Kyle Larson missed one race to mend, but even if he had run there is no certainty it would have been enough. As for Sam Hornish Jr., he was 12th at Daytona, outside the Top 20 ever since.
To be taken seriously, a driver really should at least average a 25th place finish week in and week out. That is just 684 points over the course of a season, just 19 each week. Twenty-eight drivers managed the feat in 2014, ranging from Kevin Harvick on top, down to what’s her name. They competed, the rest participated.
Twenty-six have done it thus far in 2014. Stenhouse, Hornish and Stewart are not amongst them. While a win is not crucial just yet, it would solve a lot of ills. Just ask Kurt how that worked out for him last year.
Hot 20 heading to Bristol…
1. Kevin Harvick – 2 Wins (306 Points)
A slump is finishing eighth at Martinsville. His boss would love that kind of hard luck.
2. Jimmie Johnson – 2 Wins (216 Points)
Sure, points are nice, but wins are better.
3. Joey Logano – 1 Win (280 Points)
Gets those Duke boys to help him launch new sponsor (Autotrader).
4. Brad Keselowski – 1 Win (246 Points)
The Captain has to be happier than the Skipper…two sweet ships and not a Gilligan in sight.
5. Denny Hamlin – 1 Win (205 Points)
Denny’s loves Denny. What’s next, Chick-fil-A for Danica? Taco Bell for Michael?
6. Martin Truex Jr – 266 Points
Like Harvick and Logano, going for eight straight in the Top Ten this season.
7. Kasey Kahne – 230 Points
Loves his tires, just not as wheely, wheely loose as they were at Texas.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr – 213 Points
Going round and round is not pointless for Junior.
9. Aric Almirola – 195 Points
Smithfield Pork is the sponsor in the Food City 500. I’m sensing a theme here.
10. David Ragan – 194 Points
Would he be just as finger lickin’ good back in the No. 34?
11. Jamie McMurray – 193 Points
After showing off the new digital dashboard, hopes to dash to victory lane on Sunday.
12. Matt Kenseth – 189 Points
If you want a sure thing to make the Chase, Matt is as good as it gets.
13. Jeff Gordon – 186 Points
If Jeff is old I might as well go ahead and make my appointment with the undertaker.
14. Carl Edwards – 182 Points
A definite Bristol contender, a season changer if he can pull it off.
15. Casey Mears – 178 Points
Is getting by with a little help from his alliance friends.
16. Paul Menard – 177 Points
Runs better with an engine than in a soap box derby entry.
17. Danica Patrick – 176 Points
Not good enough to draw rave reviews just yet, but it sure beats 28th.
18. Clint Bowyer – 168 Points
Still in the hunt despite a Rodney Dangerfield kind of season.
19. Greg Biffle – 165 Points
If the Biff is suffering, imagine how teammates Stenhouse and Bayne are feeling.
20. A.J. Allmendinger – 161 Points
In 2007, at this track, in this race, A.J. made his Cup debut.