Hot 20 – Talladega is not for wimps or the faint of heart

If there was one NASCAR race I was going to watch this autumn, it would be the action coming up this Sunday at Talladega, Alabama. If the only thing you know about the sport is that usually there is some guy named Junior in the field, this is the one to tune in. If you do not care about points, the Chase or what that even is, could not care less as to who is in what car, but you just want to see something on the television that makes you go “holy crap!”, this is the one race for you.

Nose to tail, side by side, just inches apart, ripping around a 2.66-mile tri-oval that is 48 feet wide with 33-degree banking in the corners at speeds of over 190 miles per hour. It is obvious to anyone watching what could happen. It is amazing when it does not. When it does, and the Big One almost always takes place and all hell breaks loose, you will wonder about these crazy people who do what they do to provide this kind of entertainment on a Sunday afternoon.

If all NASCAR races could deliver on the promise of a high-octane thrilling competition every time out, you would already know all this. Instead, we hear about television ratings plummeting along with track attendance, empty grandstands being torn down, sponsors pulling out and a driver’s ability to attract the cash at least as important as what they can do in a race car.

We have a couple of former champions, one still in the running for this season’s crown, out of their rides for next season. At least one team running in the top twenty this season is folding its tents. As for star power, it does not matter to many fans how they did, but who they are. In that case, the retirements of the likes of Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Carl Edwards, combined with the upcoming departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the possible exodus of Danica Patrick leaves a lot of merchandise sitting on the shelves.

Yet, none of that should matter this Sunday afternoon. Talladega is the one to watch, no matter who is driving or what they are driving for. Just grab your favorite beverage, have your favorite snack handy, ensure that there is a pathway between your seat and the bathroom, and park yourself in your favorite chair for what should be a damned entertaining experience.

Sunday is Talladega.

1. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – SEGMENT WIN – 3106 Pts – 6 Wins
The one guy who comes to Talladega very, very relaxed and without a care in the world.

2. KYLE LARSON – 3072 POINTS – 4 Wins
Without a Chase, he would trail Truex by 11 points. No one else is close, hence…the Chase.

3. KEVIN HARVICK – 3069 POINTS – 1 Win
Looks to be in good position, but let us not take any chances this weekend.

Might be saving up his wins for the No. 9 but, if so, he might want to reconsider.

5. DENNY HAMLIN – 3056 POINTS – 2 Wins
Instead of NFL kind of money, with dropping support drivers are lucky to make lunch money.

6. KYLE BUSCH – 3055 POINTS – 4 Wins
One bushed Busch by the time they were done at Charlotte.

7. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 3051 POINTS – 3 Wins
If a tire goes flat, can the team deliver the new rubber out onto the track as it is a safety issue?

McMurray’s last win was this race, four years ago.

List of open seats for next season is dwindling. It is time to make a statement.

10. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 3042 POINTS – 2 Wins
A paint scheme to honor Junior would look even better in Victory Lane.

11. RYAN BLANEY – 3039 POINTS – 1 Win
Talladega, where “there’s confidence but not a lot of comfort.” Sounds like my wedding day.

12. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 3034 POINTS – 2 Wins
Won the last time they were at Talladega. He sure could use another one on Sunday.

13. AUSTIN DILLON – 2086 POINTS – 1 Win
Has the right car number to do great things at this track.

14. KASEY KAHNE – 2074 POINTS – 1 Win
Among those leaving their seats, at least Kahne has found a new home for next season.

15. KURT BUSCH – 2068 POINTS – 1 Win
Still looking.

16. RYAN NEWMAN – 2068 POINTS – 1 Win
NASCAR driver. Rescue rancher.

I guess you could say he is the best of the rest.

18. JOEY LOGANO – 752 POINTS – 1 Win
On the positive side, he has run well in Chase events. On the downside, it does not matter

Such a fitness freak, he actually runs the stairs with his car while doing a television segment.

If you bet that Suarez was going to finish 20th in points this season, it would appear that you won.

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.


  1. Time to switch to the NFL or queue up the reruns on my DVR. Talladega is only entertaining to the lowest common denominator of NASCAR fans, those who like to get drunk and watch tedious faux racing interrupted by demo derby “highlights.”


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