Hot 20 – Kentucky is no Daytona…and for some of us that is not a good thing

The thrills and the moments of dread of Daytona are behind us. Kentucky is next on the agenda, yet something tells me it arrives with not quite the same sense of anticipation. It still is racing, there is still a measure of danger attached to it, but it is not the same thing. Some think that is a good thing.

Things can be made safer, less risky. In 2012, Nik Wallenda walked the high-wire above Niagra Falls. The danger was minimized when Canadian authorities insisted he make the trek wearing a safety harness. In 2013, he walked across the Grand Canyon without the harness. Both involved great skill, both were successful, but which impressed you the most?

There is an iconic photograph of 11 iron workers sitting on a suspended beam 89 stories up during the construction of Rockefeller Center in 1932. Not one of the workers was wearing a safety device as they were shown reading, eating, and smoking with nothing but the void beneath them. I wonder how iconic that photo would have been with a large safety net stretched out beneath them?

Last Monday morning, we saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. up front, eyes on his mirrors as he jumped from lane to lane to stall the pursuit of his challengers at 200 mph, en roue to claiming the checkered flag. We also saw the No. 3 of Austin Dillon punched high into the catchfence, hitting wheels first, to be torn up and spit back onto the racing surface as its engine bounced away on its own. We saw fans sprayed with debris and we saw the wreckage containing the driver hit late by a sliding Brad Keselowski. We watched, we worried, and we felt relief when we got the sign Dillon was okay.

Some do not care for such scenarios and want it changed in some way to make it even safer for all concerned. Some of those proponents of change are drivers. You would think that any civilized person would embrace such change. Of course, while we are at it and in the interest of safety, we could welcome the NFFL and the NSL, that is the National Flag Football League and the National Shinny League. All it would take us to be more civilized and less risky would be to just remove contact from football and hockey.

In fact, let us remove the engines and let the entries coast down the banking in a newly constituted NASBAR, or the National Association of Soap Box Auto Racing. Little risk, little danger, and obviously very few fans watching. That is the trade off.

Do not get me wrong, I understand there is danger and risk in NASCAR, especially at the super speedways. I know that one day a crewman will be in the wrong place at the wrong time, a fan will be sitting too close to the action when parts fly, or all the driver safety features will prove to not be enough on some fateful day we pray is a long way off. We would be naive to think otherwise.

NASCAR has tried, especially so for more than a decade, to make the sport safer. The fact that this accident involving the No. 3 at Daytona did not result in a fatality is proof of that. For fans, crews, and drivers, they should continue to fight for improvements to safety, but at some point they must either accept some degree of real risk or move on to something they believe to be safer.

We watch, not to see disaster, but to witness those who can do what for us would be the impossible, and leave us in wonder at their skill and success.

Our Hot 20 heading into Kentucky on Saturday night include…

1. Jimmie Johnson – 4 WINS (589 Points)
Even Jimmie thought we had lost Austin last week.

2. Kevin Harvick – 2 WINS (656 Points)
It is official…Keelan can drive. What were you doing as a three year old?

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 2 WINS (593 Points)
Outwitted, outplayed, outlasted…but Dillon was the survivor.

4. Kurt Busch – 2 WINS (508 Points)
I agree with Kurt that we can make NASCAR safer…but at one point do we drive fans off?

5. Joey Logano – 1 WINS (581 Points)
Knew within three laps that last weekend would be a bit of a test.

6. Martin Truex Jr. – 1 WIN (569 Points)
The best thing about his race weekend was leaving.

7. Brad Keselowski – 1 WIN (520 Points)
The last hit was the scariest.

8. Matt Kenseth – 1 WIN (501 Points)
The oldest driver to win at Kentucky…and that was two years ago. Time to set a new record.

9. Denny Hamlin – 1 WIN (480 Points)
One little spin, one hell of a mess.

10. Carl Edwards – 1 WIN (408 Points)
Bad weekend at Daytona, bad week for Subway.

11. Jamie McMurray – 528 POINTS
A win would be nice but, as of yet, still unneccesary.

12. Jeff Gordon – 500 POINTS
They have not raced long at Kentucky, but a first win here would prove sweet.

13. Kasey Kahne – 496 POINTS
Sharks recently reported a Kahne sighting.

14. Paul Menard – 480 POINTS
One of four driving XFINITY at Kentucky, along with Brad, Junior, and…Kyle???

15. Ryan Newman – 472 POINTS
Being a race car driver can be dangerous. That is one reason I am not, but why is he?

16. Clint Bowyer – 465 POINTS
Patience is a virtue and Virtuous Clint is finally in the Top Sixteen.

17. Aric Almirola – 441 POINTS
One bad finish and bad things happen in the standings. Case in point…

18. Kyle Larson – 395 POINTS
Some like him as a dark horse candidate for this Sunday. If it proves true, a win and he’s in.

19. Greg Biffle – 392 POINTS
The Biff is interested with how the new rules package pans out…and he could use some good panning.

20. Danica Patrick – 386 POINTS
Dillon destroys his car, still finishes seventh, and is now just seven points back of Ms. Patrick.

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. so glad that Fox is done for the season, now we don’t have to have a camera trained on Danica every other lap as she runs around in 27th place, just ahead of her soon to be without a ride boyfriend. both are without a signed contract next year and it will be hard to find a big sponsor for Stenhouse that’s for sure. In today’s business climate it is looking like it’s going to find another big daddy for Danica too. Now if the print writers can get past their irrational love of Danica then all will be right in the nascar world.


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