Hot 20 – Phoenix isn’t Tombstone, but it Might be Hard to Tell the Difference after Sunday

NASCAR sought unpredictability for its championship run, and they have it. If not for the Chase, Jeff Gordon would just need to hold off Joey Logano, 26 points back, over the next two races and the title would be his. If the Chase format had not changed from last year, Logano would be the man in charge, with Kevin Harvick 35 back with two to go. Not much drama, not terribly unpredictable, and to change that up is the sole reason NASCAR changed things up this season.

Heading into Phoenix on Sunday, none of the eight remaining contenders are locked in. Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman look strong, but they are out of trouble by only 11 to 13 points. A bunch of things can happen to see that savings account get all used up. The other contenders are within six points either way of making it or losing their chance to race for all the marbles. At Homestead, the best finisher of the remaining four claims the crown, a track that historically is a good one for Carl Edwards, Harvick, Hamlin, and Gordon. Still, you got to be in the mix to contend, and you got to have a good final day to claim the prize.

Jerks need not apply. If someone takes you out of the running, there are 38 cowboys (and one cowgirl) out there with nothing to lose at Miami. A simple “oops” can make one’s day while ruining somebody’s season. When a lad tries to fit his car in a hole it just does not fit without risking taking one or both of the leaders out, and tries to walk away from it later, somebody is bound to get a wee bit ticked off. Somebody might end up a tad bloodied. Somebody might find their bid for a title “accidently” wrecked. NASCAR wanted drama. NASCAR wanted unpredictability. NASCAR got it. While the O.K. Corral might be 200 miles away from the track in Phoenix, Keselowski might find himself facing a hell of a lot of Wyatt Earps out there this weekend.

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No matter how these “playoffs” end, the top two drivers throughout this season have been Gordon and Logano. It would be a shame if either fails to make it through Phoenix. It would be a damn shame if the third best fellow, Keselowski, also failed to make it through. Yup, a damn shame. Bad things befalling Bad Brad? Dramatic, yes, but unpredictable? Not so much. What remains to be seen is where, by whom, and when.

*Drivers awarded 25 (instead of 3) bonus points for a win
BOLD = Current Chase contender

Hot 20

1 – Jeff Gordon – 4 Wins – 1263 Points
2 – Joey Logano – 5 – 1259
3 – Brad Keselowski – 5 – 1208
4 – Dale Earnhardt Jr – 4 – 1196
5 – Kevin Harvick – 3 – 1144
6 – Jimmie Johnson – 4 – 1115
7 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 1064
8 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 1060
9 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 1052
10 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 1018
11 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 976
12 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 962
13 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 945
14 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 939
15 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 933
16 – Kasey Kahne – 1 – 933
17 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 931
18 – Paul Menard – 0 – 883
19 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 875
20 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 862

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