You’ve got your Monster Mile in Dover and you’ve got your Hot Mile in Phoenix, but they are seeking to work a little magic on the mile in Loudon, New Hampshire. Kyle the Magnificent hopes he can continue pulling out of his hat the kind of results that have seen him win two of the last three events. Busch remains the hot story, but he will need to make up the 87 points between him and the 30th ranked Cole Whitt for his victories to launch him from 35th upwards into a spot on this list.
Eleven drivers have wins, 10 of whom sit in Chase places, and none of them needs more bubbly just yet though none would turn down the chance for a post-race soaking. No matter what, those 10, along with both Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon, will keep their Chase positions in hand when they leave Loudon. A win would be nice, but not critical for any of them.
The odds favor Busch making up his point deficit, maybe even as much as 20 of that coming this weekend alone. If he can accomplish that over the next eight events, that would leave only five Chase spots available for non-winners. You have to figure at least one or two others will claim their first checkered flag of the campaign between now and Richmond. Kyle Larson has yet to win a Cup race, but in two career Loudon starts he has claimed a second and a third place result. That first victory could come Sunday. If he or another of the winless amongst them can do the trick, the number of Chase spots available based on points alone could be reduced to four.
Sunday will be an important one for Kyle and all those sitting beyond 12th in the standings. It would be a very good time for one of them to make a little magic.
The Hot 20 heading to New Hampshire include…
1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 4 WINS (624 Points)
New rules package should give Chad something to play with.
2. KEVIN HARVICK – 2 WINS (692 Points)
His son gets a go-cart. His wife gets jewelry. Sounds like a win-win-lose situation to me.
3. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 2 WINS (616 Points)
Four car operations can be fun…as long as they are owned by Rick Hendrick.
4. KURT BUSCH – 2 WINS (542 Points)
If Stewart-Haas was just a two-car outfit like Penske, this would be a hell of a great season.
5. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN (624 Points)
Sees nothing wrong in having just one team-mate.
6. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN (596 Points)
What is a team-mate?
7. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN (559 Points)
A great Kentucky weekend with an XFINITY victory and sixth place finish in Cup.
8. MATT KENSETH – 1 WIN (540 Points)
Only the fourth best Gibbs driver last week…and he finished fifth!
9. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (522 Points)
Eighteen starts at Loudon, 11 Top Tens, two wins. It might be another good day for Joe Gibbs.
10. CARL EDWARDS – 1 WIN (449 Points)
Fourth at Kentucky sure beats 40th and 41st the previous two weeks.
11. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 556 POINTS
He won’t win in New Hampshire, but history tells us he could finish anywhere else.
12. JEFF GORDON – 537 POINTS
Sure, Jeff is leaving after the season, but why is no one lamenting the loss of Josh Wise?
13. KASEY KAHNE – 513 POINTS
If Jeff and Kasey are having disappointing seasons, at least 30 others would love to suck this badly.
14. PAUL MENARD – 509 POINTS
Best ever Loudon finish is 12th. A Top 20 would even represent a moral victory.
15. RYAN NEWMAN – 497 POINTS
That tire penalty back in March still looms…but how large depends on who wins the next eight.
16. CLINT BOWYER – 490 POINTS
I recently read that Bowyer is “stuck in the middle of a miserable season.” Ask Tony if he agrees.
17. ARIC ALMIROLA – 473 POINTS
Might be easier for Kyle to make up 87 points on Cole Whitt than for Aric to peg 17 on Bowyer.
18. GREG BIFFLE – 420 POINTS
Hopes a scripted NASCAR tv series might mean he gets to re-write his season.
19. KYLE LARSON – 404 POINTS
He is fast but, with an average finish of 20th, he sure is not making it last.
20. CASEY MEARS – 399 POINTS
As Johnny Cash prophetically sang, “Danica’s gone, one more round, Danica’s gone.”