Hot 20 – The Chase for the Championship Commences in Chicago

So it begins. Sixteen drivers, each trying to avoid being one of the four eliminated from contention for the championship after each round of three races.

The first round, Chicago, New Hampshire, and Dover, will see each running for the best finish amongst those qualified. A win in any of the three would guarantee them a spot in the next round of three events no matter how they might fair in the other two contests. History tells us that Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard will not do well this weekend.

For them, this would be a good time to rewrite history. For those outside the Top Sixteen, no time like the present to break a few hearts. A win now robs a contender of a free pass and could go a long way in getting sponsors thinking more of what is to come than what could have been.

That would be the goal of the bottom four amongst our hot 20 heading into Chicago this Sunday.

1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2012 POINTS (4 Wins)
The firm of Petty and Earnhardt still has room for another name partner.

2. KYLE BUSCH – 2012 (4)
Having a leg up on the opposition was not a good thing in his case, but it matters not now.

3. MATT KENSETH – 2012 (4)
If his 2003 title started this Chase business, now he can start eliminating his critics four at a time.

4. JOEY LOGANO – 2009 (3)
Had the pole at Richmond, but Kenseth only allowed him to lead 25 of the 400 laps.

5. KEVIN HARVICK – 2006 (2)
His points standing just went from a 30 point lead to a six-point deficit.

6. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 2006 (2)
He and his buddy Greg Ives come in with four straight Top Tens. Three more would be nice.

7. KURT BUSCH – 2006 (2)
First Chase champion would like to be the next one, too.

8. CARL EDWARDS – 2006 (2)
I am not sure if he misses Jack Roush at all, considering how his season with Joe Gibbs has gone.

9. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2003 (1)
One of six in the Chase who already knows how it feels to be crowned a champion.

10. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 2003 (1)
Team-mates? We ain’t got no teammates. We don’t need no team-mates.

11. DENNY HAMLIN – 2003 (1)
Adversity is racing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his throttle leg’s knee.

So…this is the Chase, eh?

13. JEFF GORDON – 2000
What better way to ride off into the sunset than with a fifth title?

14. RYAN NEWMAN – 2000
Winless in 2015. Runner-up to Harvick in 2014.

15. PAUL MENARD – 2000
Chicago has not been his kind of town.

16. CLINT BOWYER – 2000
Like his team owner, he is out of a job after this season. Both could use a little good news.

Fourth at Richmond was like being a groomsman at your sweetheart’s wedding.

18. KASEY KAHNE – 677
Only Hendrick driver to miss the party this year, needs some positive results heading into 2016.

19. KYLE LARSON – 618
Sophomore jinx bit him hard this season.

20. GREG BIFFLE – 611
Limping along in his worst season ever, as Jack Roush has his worst as an owner.

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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