Hot 20 – Watkins Glen is another chance to win, but most are just as desperate to find money

Money, it makes the world go round. So I’m told, anyway. While you and I might remain in perpetual financial darkness, the stock markets would seem to indicate that those on top of the heap are reeling it in. That would include, you would think, those who disperse those big sponsorship dollars that are the life blood of NASCAR. Not so, it appears. Either that, or what they are planning to spend their windfall on has nothing to do with motor car racing.

Target is leaving Chip Ganassi after a 16-year relationship, despite the success of Kyle Larson. That leaves only Lowe’s (Jimmie Johnson) and FedEx (Denny Hamlin) as full-time sponsors on the Cup circuit. Roger Penske, Rick Hendrick, Richard Petty, Richard Childress, and the duo of Stewart-Haas are all said to be hunting down those elusive dollars for next season. To make it worse, Target is redirecting its resources from racing to soccer. Soccer!

Among the less established outfits, some hire a driver who comes with a team that promises to also bring in the dollars. Paul Menard is the best known example, as his family’s business made it easy for the Wood Brothers to welcome him in as their replacement for Ryan Blaney. The move leaves Childress looking for cash to field a car for his grandson, Ty Dillon, with that family operation.

Some drivers do not come with a fortune. Gray Gaulding had a deal with B.K. Racing where his family’s marketing firm dug up the sponsorship bucks, allowing him to drive and everyone to make money. The story has it that when those dollars dried up, the 19-year old driver was out. If names like Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch, and Larson can not lock in the funding easily, just imagine how tough it must be for under-performing teams with unestablished wheel-men.

How anyone makes money in the other two national series is beyond me. The “crowd” for the Xfinity event at Indianapolis, for example, was tragic. Hell, there are reports that claim only 35,000 turned out for the Cup event, in a facility that seats ten times that number. The lack of crowds just about everywhere remains a concern. Not every race can be a spectacle, we know, but you need more than a bunch of cars spread out going round and round in the same position lap after lap. Most fans that came with the fad that NASCAR was were not racing fans, just folks looking for an adrenaline rush. For a time, they got it. Today, they do not, or so it would seem. At least the stage concept has provided us with some different pit strategies and re-starts to try and shake up the field a bit.

Let us be honest. Some tracks are duds, for the most part. We could argue that last week’s venue, Pocono, could be among them if excitement is what you are in it for. In fact, nearly half of the Cup schedule is placed in spots that yield less than “edge of your seat” outcomes. I do not think Watkins Glen is among them. I think you might enjoy what is coming up this Sunday.

If you can find any, you might even put some money down on that. If nothing else, you will get better odds than say you would get on seeing Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Kasey Kahne all having full-time rides next season. Follow the money…if you can find it.


1. MARTIN TRUEX, JR. – 3 WINS (823 Pts)
The Furniture Row driver is simply the best thus far this season. Period.

2. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 3 WINS (566 Pts)
When Jimmie and Chad retire, Lowe’s should have a place on their Hall of Fame plaques.

3. KYLE LARSON – 2 WINS (738 Pts)
If there is any sponsor out there looking to target a premium driver, this would be one of them.

The Cup series is sick, the other two series are dying. Does everybody realize this?

5. RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. – 2 WINS (468 Pts)
Has just four more points than Daniel, but two more wins than Mr. Suarez.

6. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN (726 Pts)
Limiting veterans in Xfinity limits Harvick’s sponsorship opportunities. He is not happy.

7. KYLE BUSCH – 1 WIN (723 Pts)
Could Kyle tell me how any games he thinks Mike Trout should play in Salt Lake and Mobile?

8. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (649 Pts)
Will be ready to race on Sunday, unless Jordan is ready to deliver their second child that day.

9. RYAN BLANEY – 1 WIN (529 Pts)
It should not be long before the Blaney-Bubba Show arrives full-time in Cup.

10. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (494 Pts)
On the verge of becoming a free agent? Wow!

11. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN (491 Pts)
Could we see a return of Newman to Stewart-Haas? Hahahaha. I just made myself laugh.

12. KASEY KAHNE – 1 WIN (414 Pts)
Wins a race, like Kurt, and has no assurance he will keep his job. What does that tell you?

13. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (395 Pts)
Brother Ty is ready to take his place in the family business…if they can find the money.

Rule of thumb over the next five races would be to finish on the lead lap. Easier said than done.

Only wins on the marquee tracks. He might want to re-think that.

Could he make the Chase and still be looking for a job next season? Just ask Kasey and Kurt.

Could move closer to Kenseth on Sunday, but if A.J. Allmendinger wins then it is all for naught.

18. JOEY LOGANO – 525 POINTS (1 Win)
The Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Darlington, or Richmond. Joey has to win one of them.

Unless there is an appeal, Jones’ 25 point penalty at Pocono moves Suarez to right here.

With Jones joining Gibbs next season, could that leave open a return of Kurt to Colorado?

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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