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Hot 20 – Excitement at Bristol, more expected for Richmond, but does anyone give a damn?

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One hundred forty thousand backsides can be parked around the coliseum that is the Bristol Speedway. Nobody releases any official figures these days, as NASCAR would rather try to keep its head, or yours, buried deep in the sand. However, when less than 100,000 show up, and some think this was a stadium only half full at a track guaranteed to showcase action, something is terribly wrong.

You can blame the economy only for so long. Maybe people are just sick and tired of high ticket costs, concession prices, and what one has to lay out for accommodations. Money is tight, and you better not come across as a robber baron if you want any of it. I mean, $300 a night hotels with a three-night minimum. Really?

Writing this column ensures I watch nearly every event. No one else in my family does any longer. When was the last time a celebrity asked, “How bad have you got it?” No more do the All-State girls stalk Kasey Kahne, no one drives a Big Brown Truck, NAPA is long gone, and we have long since said goodbye to Goodwrench. Maybe it was just a fad, some phase we went through. I guess some just last longer than others. The NFL seems to be doing alright, and there is no better way to spend an afternoon than catching a ball game at Fenway.

I am not going to take the opportunity to slam NASCAR. Not this time. Sure, I still enjoy doing so, but I still enjoy the product. Maybe not with the passion I once had, but I want to see Jimmie Johnson make it seven championships, Dale Earnhardt Jr. to chalk up just one, to watch Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney succeed. There are so many to cheer for, a few I would rather not and probably for no good reason other than it is fun to jeer them. I mention this because I am concerned. Bristol once was sold out for over 25 straight years, both races each year. Sunday’s attendance came as almost a shock. Not so much that there were fewer fans, just the fact there were fewer fans at Bristol. That just should not happen.

Six of our Hot 20 are champions, one a former six-time title holder. Richmond has been on the schedule since the 1950s. Does it matter? It still does to me.

1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2 WINS – 271 PTS
Winless streak hits three. I doubt anyone is panicking just yet, other than maybe the opposition.

2. KYLE BUSCH – 2 WINS – 262 PTS
Damn tire. Damn wall. Damn penalty. Damn tire. Damn wall. Damn, I am sorry, lady.

3. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN – 287 PTS
I watched Harvick win from the Daytona backstretch. It no longer exists, same with Richmond’s.

4. CARL EDWARDS – 1 WIN – 286 PTS
Where in hell did all my teammates go last week?

5. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN – 224 PTS
Three Top Tens, including a win, in his last four Richmond starts.

6. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN – 222 PTS
Dear Carl: Love your car. Hey, I have an idea…

7. JOEY LOGANO – 266 PTS
If the past two years mean anything, Joey is going to love being back in Virginia.

8. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 250 PTS
Let me understand this. They wave the green flag and we go? Does the car know?

9. KURT BUSCH – 247 PTS
Showed last Sunday he is not just another pretty Busch. He was the one with inflated tires.

10. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 214 PTS
A single Top Five in twenty starts does not exactly make him a sure thing at Richmond.

11. AUSTIN DILLON – 213 PTS
Camping World and XFINITY champ continues to show he is more than someone’s grandson.

12. CHASE ELLIOTT – 205 PTS
The way things are going, soon Bill Elliott will be best known for being a dad, not a racer.

13. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 199 PTS
Might not win, but a Top Five is certainly not out of the question this weekend.

14. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 188 PTS
He can turn right, he can turn left, and now he seems able to just go round and round.

15. KASEY KAHNE – 185 PTS
Won at Richmond more than a decade ago, but no sure bet for a Top Ten this weekend.

16. RYAN NEWMAN – 182 PTS
Odds indicate a Top Ten on Sunday for the Rocketman.

17. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 178 PTS
Had a long day last week after being spun right round, baby, right round like a record, baby.

18. MATT KENSETH – 177 PTS
After watching the movie Major League, he has an idea. Does anyone have a chicken?

19. RYAN BLANEY – 174 PTS
A quick learner with XFINITY success, but Sunday marks his first Cup appearance at Richmond.

20. TREVOR BAYNE – 172 PTS
Roush Fenway cars still in the mix, with Stenhouse just ahead and Biffle not far behind.

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Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site for 13 seasons. The fact he is referred to as a Senior Writer has little to do with his ability or length of service, but more about just how old he has become. It is anticipated that before the end of this campaign, he will be promoted to Ancient Scribe.

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