Hot 20 – After Dover, it is Over for Four Contenders

According to the Chase, a couple of Penske drivers lead the way in the standings with Sunday’s race at Dover to determine the dozen who advance to the next round. According to our season long standings, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano certainly are worthy of consideration. Penske thinks so, as Logano this week signed a contract extension that should keep the team mates together for some time.

Of course, consideration should also be extended to Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for their season efforts. In fact, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are not too far out of the conversation just yet, either, and odds are all will also advance to the next stage of the “playoffs.” The cream continues to rise to the top.

Whatever they do next year, it will be without benefit of private testing sessions. If NASCAR or Goodyear is not testing, then nobody is. In fact, getting caught doing so will result in the harshest penalties NASCAR can hand out. A minimum of a $150,000 fine, 150 points, a six week vacation for the crew chief kind of harshness. The annual three day test at Daytona to clear out the cobwebs is also gone. You get the feeling that they are serious about this.

The reasoning behind it is to reduce costs to teams, and few seem to disagree. It is expected to be a boost for the lesser funded operations. Reduced horsepower and reduced spoilers are also slated for next season in the hopes it creates less down force and thus, more passing opportunities. Anything that makes the action better is more than welcome.

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Welcome news that Jamie Little is bound for FOX after the ESPN boat finally sinks. There is nothing wrong with the pit reporters on that network, but their analysts and hosts are a disaster. To borrow the line from Dennis Miller, “…of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.” Sorry, I just made myself laugh there.

It is rather enjoyable to have a column such as this. It is merely a fan’s view, my honest observations. It is true that I do not enjoy seeing Logano, Denny Hamlin, or Brian Vickers win. That does not mean they are not lovely gentlemen. I bet if I shared a beer with any of them my perspective could probably change. I honestly do not enjoy the ESPN broadcasts, I think they do a disservice to the sport, but I also doubt my comments are going to cause anyone to fire Rusty Wallace tomorrow. You can agree or disagree, and we can have some fun in doing so. Sometimes, though, real life does jump out and bite us.

I am glad to hear the criminal case against Tony Stewart has ended with the grand jury decision not to proceed. I am sad to hear that the family of Kevin Ward Jr. do not accept the verdict. They firmly believe Stewart intentionally accelerated his vehicle in a bid to intimidate the younger driver and in doing so, struck and killed him.

“This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.” As a father of sons not much younger than Kevin, I understand the sentiment. If Stewart’s actions did not kill their son, the actions of their son are what got him killed. No father would want to accept that. I sure would not. I do not know if I ever could.

The top nine of our Hot 20 remain in the Chase, and should be there after this Sunday’s action. From Kasey Kahne on back, that is another story. As for who to expect to be among the contenders on Sunday, I think Kyle Larson will continue to show why he is the best newcomer this season. It think we also should have an idea how Johnson will do in his bid for seven, considering he is a nine time Dover winner.

As for a bold prediction, based on past history, expect Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Aric Almirola, and A.J. Allmendinger to miss the Chase, and Greg Biffle to race his way to another set of downs.

Hot 20

*Winning bonus expanded from 3 to 25 points
1 – Jeff Gordon – 3 Wins – 1041 Points
2 – Brad Keselowski – 5 – 1025
3 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 3 – 1017
4 – Joey Logano – 4 – 1004
5 – Jimmie Johnson – 3 – 939
6 – Kevin Harvick – 2 – 916
7 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 872
8 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 854
9 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 837
10 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 821
11 – Kasey Kahne – 1 – 809
12 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 802
13 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 783
14 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 782
15 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 781
16 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 759
17 – Paul Menard – 0 – 753
18 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 727
19 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 717
20 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 701

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