Hot 20 – Unless Kyle sputters or someone new wins, not much drama to be expected at Michigan

There are only two things to watch for in Michigan on Sunday. One is the ride of Kyle Busch and the other is the car that crosses the line first.

If Kyle does well and at least stays in the Top Thirty in points, nothing changes. Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne would not mind if we have such a change, as it would put them back in the mix on points. However, the way Mr. Busch has been running, I would not hold my breath, if I were them. If no one currently outside the Chase wins, then nothing changes. It will be up to those pretenders to become contenders at Michigan, Bristol, Darlington, or Richmond.

Meanwhile, this week we said goodbye to Buddy Baker. The 74-year old legend, a winner of the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, and the World 600 twice, passed away on Monday.

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This week also marked the 60th anniversary of my parents, Ron and Mae Thornton. Wednesday was a day of love, laughter, and family memories…just as it should be.

Cancer is what took Buddy Baker from us. That same disease will take my mother, sooner than later. As a fan of NASCAR history and as a son, love, laughter, and memories are becoming more cherished than ever before.

Here is a look at the Hot 20 as they run this Sunday at Michigan.

1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 4 WINS (747 Points)
Denny said he was sorry. Jimmie replied with something possibly describing an unnatural act.

2. KYLE BUSCH – 4 WINS (361 Points)
Back where he belongs.

3. KEVIN HARVICK – 2 WINS (823 Points)
Turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, turn, damn…damn.

4. JOEY LOGANO – 2 WINS (781 Points)
Fresh tires and some fuel made all the difference last week.

5. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 2 WINS (750 Points)
Like most others at the Glen, they were left wondering, “Where in hell was that last caution?”

6. MATT KENSETH – 2 WINS (703 Points)
Five straight Top Tens makes Kenseth more than just a pretty face.

7. KURT BUSCH – 2 WINS (659 Points)
You can never have too much help…except in the pits…or so says NASCAR.

8. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN (719 Points)
Figures if you liked the Brickyard, you might love Michigan. Sadly, few did and few will.

9. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN (714 Points)
On a Rocky Mountain high after locking in his berth into the Chase.

10. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (631 Points)
Last week, he drove with the hood up. This week he will try to drive blindfolded.

11. CARL EDWARDS – 1 WIN (589 Points)
Under former rules, he would be just a pretender…but not under these rules.

12. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 635 POINTS
No wins…and in the end last week…no fluids.

13. PAUL MENARD – 622 POINTS
Ten up on Bowyer, 60 ahead of Almirola, vulnerable as hell if the wrong driver wins Sunday.

14. JEFF GORDON – 620 POINTS
Ditto.

15. RYAN NEWMAN – 613 POINTS
Did you read the comments for Menard and Gordon?

16. CLINT BOWYER – 612 POINTS
Sitting pretty, as long as no one beyond this point comes up with a win.

17. ARIC ALMIROLA – 562 POINTS
Watkins Glen hurt, but it meant only the difference between 50 or “just” 40 points out.

18. KASEY KAHNE – 561 POINTS
One of two active drivers not currently in the Chase who has won at Michigan. That was in 2006.

19. GREG BIFFLE – 532 POINTS
The other driver is this guy, a Michigan winner in 2004-05 and in 2012-13 (summer/spring).

20. KYLE LARSON – 517 POINTS
To do list: Win one of the next four races.

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