Hot 20 of the NASCAR season that was

Another season has come and gone, along with a few more drivers and fans, to be honest. However, there are some things I have noticed that are on the positive side, though not all would agree.

I like stage racing. I was not sure to start with, but I like it now. It helps chronicle who mattered early and it informs us as to who mattered throughout. It even tells us who won, and it rewards that winner is a meaningful way.

As a traditionalist, I was dead set against the playoffs. I have changed my mind. Logically, it makes no sense to have the pretenders still on the same competitive field as the contenders. Yet, it has not much affected the action, other than for one understandably upset Matt Kenseth. In this snowflake influenced world of ours, sometimes vengeance can still be had.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not missed on the track due to his excellence in the NBC broadcast booth alongside Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte, Rick Allen and a very stout track-side team. They were entertaining, informative, and sounded like they were excited being there. That is all it takes, but it took a long, long time for some to figure that out. I am not sure FOX has yet.

NASCAR boss man Brian France left the scene in August after being tagged with charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Replaced by his uncle, I think most think that was a positive step. At least Jim France bothers to show up at the track every week.

The France family is looking to fold its 13 track International Speedway Corp., which includes Darlington, Daytona, Martinsville and Talladega, into a merger with NASCAR itself. One can speculate as to the reasons, be it to lay out “a more unified strategic approach”, as Jim France says, or to package it all up for sale. Time will tell.

Sometime over the past decade, the “How bad have you got it” mantra went out the window, along with the fans they were asking. Most of the races this season had a dip in ratings, with at least 26 being seen as having their worst of the past decade, if not of all time. Most of the celebrities are gone, we produce fewer gear heads these days, and the good ole boys and girls like Bo, Luke, and Daisy have been replaced in society by those who know more about tissues than issues.

It appears Jamie McMurray is leaving the driver’s seat, at least on a full-time basis. Kurt Busch could be his replacement with Chip Ganassi. Kenseth is set to step back from even doing that after spelling off Trevor Bayne. Ryan Newman will take their place at Roush-Fenway, with newcomer Daniel Hemric taking his former ride with Richard Childress. Furniture Row is now gone, as Martin Truex Jr. heads over to Joe Gibbs, bumping Daniel Suarez possibly over to replace the elder Busch at Stewart-Haas. A.J. Allmendinger will be without a ride, giving up his seat to rookie Ryan Preece. Kasey Kahne has called it a career, and the 17-year combination of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus comes to an end.

Changes. Some we like, some we will not, at least to start with. Will fans come back in droves? Nope. Why should they? Give them a reason, give them entertainment, give them a reason to care.

All they have to do is figure out what that is. Over the course of the past decade, they have not.

1. JOEY LOGANO – 5040 POINTS (3 Wins)
This is not “fake news.” Logano is a deserving, even if not an overly popular, champion.

2. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 5035 POINTS (4 Wins)
If we could ignore the facts for our own biases…but we can not. Now he is off to join the Coach.

3. KEVIN HARVICK – 5034 POINTS (8 Wins)
If he could win all those he dominated for a period of time, he would have gone double figures.

4. KYLE BUSCH – 5033 POINTS (8 Wins)
Great seasons can be spoiled by the uncertainty of a playoff. Case in point…

5. ARIC ALMIROLA – 2354 POINTS (1 Win)
Not everyone is moving on. Then again, he was one of those movers not so long ago.

6. CHASE ELLIOTT – 2350 POINTS (3 Wins)
The future of Hendrick has already arrived.

7. KURT BUSCH – 2350 POINTS (1 Win)
If he wants to race Indy, his rumored new boss might have a few options open to him.

“I’m going to say it again. I did not intentionally spin out that driver, Mr. Suarez.”

If your business is named “Hi-Line”, I have a marketing opportunity for you.

10. RYAN BLANEY – 2298 POINTS (1 Win)
Like Chase, he is one of the positives NASCAR can showcase for the future.

As with Johnson, a years-long streak of wins in a season comes to an end.

12. CLINT BOWYER – 2272 POINTS (2 Wins)
Light-hearted and funny. Plus, if you ever find yourself in a ditch, he has connections.

13. AUSTIN DILLON – 2245 POINTS (1 Win)
That win was nice, but the iconic number was not so iconic after Daytona.

The marriage with Chad lasted longer than a vast majority of Hollywood relationships.

15. ERIK JONES – 2220 POINTS (1 Win)
At 22, That Jones Boy is making Joe Gibbs feel pretty good about the future.

Driving a car once driven by an Earnhardt is not an easy act to follow.

Off to become one of the guys over at the House that Jack built. Maybe even his bodyguard.

After five years, the storyline changed in 2018, along with a downturn in performance

Will be around as long as a certain home improvement company markets its wares on a stock car.

If this marks the end of the line, he finishes it up among those who mattered.

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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