Hot 20 – Michigan is a track for legends, but no Junior to be seen as Buescher gets Ford support

Michigan. A big track, a fast track. Sadly, not exactly a legacy event, like winning at Daytona or Bristol or Talladega or Indianapolis or Darlington or either road course.

What it is, is a track where legends have celebrated since 1969. In fact, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Richard Petty, Dale Jarrett, and Bobby Allison have combined for 46 victories there. That is a lot of suds for a lot of Hall of Famers.

Greg Biffle is the only four-time winner not in yet. In fact, he needs to make it five just to make the Chase this year. Same goes for teammates Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The only driver at the big boy table sitting in a Chase place at present is Chris Buescher. He and crew chief Bob Osborne now attend the Jack Roush organizational meetings as Ford desires to have one of their boys succeed. Instead of leasing older engines and used bodies, the manufacturer wants to see Bob Jenkins compete in the best Roush has to offer. He might be a step-son, but right now he is Ford’s favorite son.

Being a France has meant running the show, not being the show. At least, until last week at Bristol when Ben Kennedy won the Wednesday night truck event. The 24-year old is the son of Lesa France Kennedy, the daughter of Bill France Jr.

Being Dale Earnhardt Jr. has delivered some terrific highs and tragic lows. His 2016 Chase hopes are down to winning at Richmond, but maybe his best health hopes are to take it easy until he is truly good to go. Alex Bowman returns to the seat of the “88″ this weekend, with Jeff Gordon expected to be back for Darlington.

Kurt Busch ran the opening 6273 laps of the 2016 season, a streak that came to an end 372 laps into Sunday’s Bristol affair. While vying for the lead he came into contact with Brad Keselowski, to ruin the day for them both. If one has to go out, might as well do it with all guns blazing. It beats fading away with a whimper.

Anyone remember the XFINITY or the Camping World Truck Series? If you do, and if you are 12 and younger, you get to go to all those races for free next season. What a wonderful way to introduce young fans to the sport. What a wonderful way of trying to get somebody to attend those races. Nobody else is. They do not really have much to lose. An empty seat buys nothing and appreciates nothing. This move is better than nothing.

This is the final year of the Sprint Cup. Soon, it will be parked in the garage alongside the Nextel Cup, the Winston Cup, and the Grand National and Strictly Stock monikers. I joked that the 400 race in Kansas could have had a worse name, then one wag commented “Don’t diss SpongeBob. That might be next year’s Cup sponsor.” Good Lord, he might be right!

Heading into Michigan, here is a look at our QuikTrip, Auto Club, Food City, Bass Pro Shops, Coca-Cola, Bank of America,, AAA, Ford EcoBoost,, Hollywood Casino, Quaker State, Kobalt, STP, Goody’s, FireKeepers Casino, Pure Michigan, Camping World, Good Sam, Xalta, Toyota Owners, Federated Auto Parts, Save Mart, GEICO, Duck Commander, Cheez-It Hot 20.

Sadly, despite these name mentions, I get not a dime. I obviously need a foundation.
So ends Kurt’s streak. Mission accomplished.

2. KYLE BUSCH – 4 WINS (674 Pts)
Last week Kyle’s car was dying. All Allgaier did was put it out of its misery.

3. KEVIN HARVICK – 2 WINS (762 Pts)
Not the most wins, but probably the best damn car week in and week out.

4. CARL EDWARDS – 2 WINS (689 Pts)
Having fun and thinking a third beer bath at Michigan is in order.

5. DENNY HAMLIN – 2 WINS (659 Pts)
Good finish last week and with the boss talking an extension, things are good for the Pied Piper.

6. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2 WINS (612 Pts)
If the sticky stuff worked at Bristol, why not pine tar the rest of the tracks?

7. MATT KENSETH – 2 WINS (604 Pts)
Drive well, make the Chase, but be considered an old fart and one’s job could be in jeopardy.

8. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (692 Pts)
So, that is what a garage looks like.

9. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN (684 Pts)
Since with Penske, has never finished here outside the Top Ten…and won in the spring.

10. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN (630 Pts)
His crew chief is Canadian, eh?

11. TONY STEWART – 1 WIN (400 Pts)
Tony is a big fan of virtual reality. Nothing gets broken.

12. CHRIS BUESCHER – 1 WIN (328 Pts)
All of a sudden, he is feeling the love from Ford.

A Top Five last Sunday was more than welcome.

If you are surprised he is where he is, say his name slowly. That was our first hint.

At Darlington, he is wearing the former colors of an older Elliott.

He does not need to make the Chase to keep his job. Who am I kidding? Damn right he does.

Crew chief Matt Puccia has won twice before in Ford country…with Greg Biffle.

Sunday sure sucked. Maybe it is time for that first career win.

With Danica buried deep, it appears NASCAR’s two prettiest will both miss the Chase.

Top Ten last Sunday, but needs a Top One this time out.

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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