Hot 20 – The preliminaries are over and it is now time to get racing for real at Daytona

Sorry, but this column is arriving a day later than my usual Thursday date. Of course, it has something to do with the race that gives me the data to mess around with did not take place until Thursday. It is not my fault.

So, why do I feel so impelled to share my witticisms when I could have just taken the day off? Well, for the first time since 1982, I can discuss who the hottest drivers are leading into the Daytona 500. Prior to this, there were no points, no benchmarks as to who was hot and who was not, other than to discuss the Daytona weather. I can tell you, sometimes that is not hot at all. I froze my arse off watching Kevin Harvick win the damn thing 10 years ago.

No, this year we have drivers who have earned points that reflect in the standings, thanks to the awarding, for the first time ever, points for the Duels. Winning one of them has meant that a pair of drivers will enter the Daytona 500 as the co-points leader with the chap who won the other Duel. Only was 10th? You have a big point already in the bank account, along with that 10th place driver over in the other Duel.

Without any further adieu, here are our Hot 20 as determined yesterday on the track as they prepare for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

1. Chase Elliott – 10 pts
What was the name of that guy he replaced?

1. Denny Hamlin – 10 pts 
Obviously, does not mind hurting the feelings of Junior’s fans.

3. Clint Bowyer – 9 pts
Good things happen when you have a good car to do them in.

3. Jamie McMurray – 9 pts
Is this the year for Dimples to shine?

5. Kurt Busch – 8 pts
Newly married and being sued. Being Kurt is not boring.

5. Kevin Harvick – 8 pts
His backup driver won’t be five until July.

7. AJ Allmendinger – 7 pts
Like a magician, he appeared out of nowhere.

7. Brad Keselowski – 7 pts
First career Cup win was at Talladega, so of course, he did well here.

9. Austin Dillon – 6 pts
Driving under the right number to do great things.

9. Matt Kenseth – 6 pts
Only member of that old Roush gang still competing.

11. Trevor Bayne – 5 pts
It has been six years since his lone Cup win at…where was that again?

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 5 pts
It has been awhile, but this guy seems rather familiar.

13. Danica Patrick – 4 pts
Between her and Ricky, 301 Cup starts, zero wins. The time is now.

13. Martin Truex Jr. – 4 pts
New season, new teammate, but 2016 results were not bad, either.

15. Ryan Newman – 3 pts
Good thing one wins by a fender, not by a neck.

15. Aric Almirola – 3 pts
Teammates…he don’t need no stinkin’ teammates.

17, Joey Logano – 2 pts
What is not to love about Joey…oh, let me count the ways.

17. Kyle Larson – 2 pts
If he keeps over the wall crew within acceptable numbers, he’ll be okay.

19. Cole Whitt – 1 pt
The lad is a ginger, and I’m not lion.

20. Ty Dillon – 1pt
First time ever on this chart. Take a bow, young man.

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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