It is a strange world we live in. Donald Trump appears on his way to the Republican nomination, but an endorsement from Brian France has folks in a tizzy. It could kill the diversity NASCAR is striving for, some claim. That is true. I doubt Trump would be a supporter of any team hiring an illegal alien to drive for them. Crazy, I know.
If that is not bad enough, the television ratings have gone from bad, to worse, to not nearly as awful as the first two races. In a sport that had something of a cult following a decade ago, NASCAR no longer releases attendance figures, prize payouts, and has torn down some grandstands. The antidote will be found on the track, in their marketing, and in the economy. As always, there remains stark room for improvement in all those areas.
A year ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Phoenix. Five of the six before that, Kevin Harvick claimed the prize. Now, if anyone could use a win this weekend, Danica Patrick, Chase Elliott, and Clint Bowyer would be among them. They sure are not among the Hot 20 going into Sunday’s action.
1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 1 WIN – 110 PTS
Drives like Superman. In California, he will even look a bit like him.
2. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN – 98 PTS
Flag on the ground, flag on the ground, felt like a fool with the flag on the ground.
3. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN – 93 PTS
Recently was asked if driver confrontations are staged. Sure, about as much as a Republican debate.
4. KYLE BUSCH – 116 PTS
Best in points, zip in wins. Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and NASCAR
5. KEVIN HARVICK – 109 PTS
Has won five of past seven races at Phoenix. If I were a betting man…
6. JOEY LOGANO – 104 PTS
Truck decal: Things I hate: warm beer, cold women, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski
7. KURT BUSCH – 102 PTS
A pit-road speed limiter button request was made by the speedster to f****** NASCAR.
8. CARL EDWARDS – 96 PTS
Twice failing template inspection last week earns the team a written note of bad tidings.
9T. AUSTIN DILLON – 90 PTS
It has been a while since the No. 3 sat in Victory Lane. It might not be long before it returns.
9T. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 90 PTS
Crew Chief is in the sin bin this week, but the driver has been a factor thus far.
11. RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. – 79 PTS
If Dillon’s performances surprise you, this must make your head spin.
12. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 78 PTS
California’s Caped Crusader hopes to repeat at Gotham…er…Phoenix.
13. KASEY KAHNE – 77 PTS
Bouncing back, or just bouncing. The jury remains out.
14. RYAN BLANEY – 73 PTS
While Mr. Elliott gets the headlines, fellow rookie Blaney thrives in un-Chartered territory.
15. ARIC ALMIROLA – 72 PTS
Living the all-American dream in the all-American car, employed by an all-American icon.
16. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 69 PTS
Some consider this to be a slow start, but it is way too early to get terribly excited just yet.
17. RYAN NEWMAN – 66 PTS
Led just one lap this season. Maybe he is going for quality rather than quantity.
18. PAUL MENARD – 62 PTS
Getting out of a hole at this time of year is a whole lot easier than trying to do it later.
19. REGAN SMITH – 57 PTS
Good start by Tommy Baldwin entry, but last two results have been far from impressive.
20T. TREVOR BAYNE – 56 PTS
Finally had a Top 20 finish last week. Well, at least, that is something.
20T. KYLE LARSON – 56 PTS
Was looking pretty good, then came Las Vegas.
20T. MATT KENSETH – 56 PTS
If NASCAR had a bumper car division, he would be running away with it this season.
20T. GREG BIFFLE – 56 PTS
Tied with his former team-mate and ahead of Danica. That might not make him feel any better.