Hot 20 – Looking ahead to the World 600 while remembering those who have fallen

Let me be clear. Any race format that artificially moves entries from behind to plop them up front is a dumb one. I do not care if it is NASCAR’s All-Star Race or one that allows me to charge ahead of the Kentucky Derby field while wearing sneakers and a propeller hat. Dumb is as dumb does.

Thankfully, we move from a waste of a perfectly good Saturday night to one of NASCAR’s marquee events, the Coca-Cola World 600. In fact, it marks the biggest day in motorsports, as our digital recording devices pick up the Formula-1 action from the French Riviera and the streets of Monaco at 8 a.m. EDT. Then our focus shifts to Indiana and the 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 at 10:20 a.m. EDT, where former NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya hopes to repeat. After they drink the milk there, it is off to Charlotte, North Carolina for our 4 p.m. EDT NASCAR date that sees Carl Edwards looking to defend.

Four-time winner Jimmie Johnson goes in seeking to claim the victory that would tie him with Darrell Waltrip for the most World 600 victories. Kasey Kahne is currently in a six-way tie for third best, with three checkered flags to his credit. He is in good company, with the other five being Buddy Baker, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon. That is damn fine company to be in. An all-time All-Star lineup to be sure.

Every sport has struggled to find the proper All-Star format. Even when you find one, tastes change over time sending organizers back to the drawing board. Baseball is close, and hockey took a major step forward last season. Football is still searching while I appreciate basketball about as much as I do soccer, so I cannot comment.

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As for NASCAR, they should begin by not having Brad Keselowski come up with the format, as he did this year. If you need gimmicks in an attempt to make it interesting, it is not interesting. A suggestion to tinker with would be to let racing decide who should be there. The only drivers locked in should be those who won races over the previous 15 months. What you did in years past should not matter but rather what you have done lately. That would have tossed Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, and Kahne back into the mix. Only 11 would have been locked in, with the other nine to be determined on that day.

If they ran three heats, as they did this year, then we could have the top three in each heat advancing to fill out the field for the feature. In order to reduce wear and tear so that those advancing might actually be able to challenge when they get there, I suggest heats of 30, 20, and 10 laps. The opening heat should be calm enough, the second a little hotter, and the dash for the final three positions would be chaotic enough without having them run too many laps. It would be nice to have 20 cars in the feature that might actually be in condition to compete. However, there are no guarantees in this life.

As for the feature itself, 100 laps, 150 miles, for a million dollars, with the rules just like any other contest. That is my proposal, but what are your thoughts?

As for this Sunday, here are NASCAR’s Hot 20 and some of our honored heroes heading into the Memorial Day weekend 600 Miles of Remembrance.

1. KYLE BUSCH – 3 WINS – 397 PTS
Pfc. Robert Stephan Underwood, U.S. Army (1949-1968) Missouri

2. CARL EDWARDS – 2 WINS – 381 PTS
Capt. Edmond Jablonsky Jr., U.S. Army (1942-1968) Texas

3. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2 WINS – 370 PTS
Sgt. 1st Class Kyle B. Wehrly, U.S. Army (1977-2005) Illinois

4. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS – 368 PTS
Spc. Joseph T. Prentler, U.S. Army (1990-2010) Michigan

5. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN – 418 PTS
Lance Cpl. Nathan Ross Elrod, U.S. Marine Corps (1986-2006) North Carolina

6. MATT KENSETH – 1 WIN – 313 PTS
Pfc. Christopher Neal White, U.S. Marine Corps (1983-2006) Kentucky

7. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN – 308 PTS
Sgt. John Davis Harvey, U.S. Marine Corps (1958-1980) Virginia

8. KURT BUSCH – 386 PTS
Sgt. Nicholas Ray Gibbs, U.S. Army (1981-2006) North Carolina

9. CHASE ELLIOTT – 341 PTS
Gunnery Sgt. Justin Martone, U.S. Marine Corps (1974-2006) Virginia

10. JOEY LOGANO – 340 PTS
Spc. Cindy Beaudoin, U.S. Army (1971-1991) Connecticut

11. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 336 PTS
Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery E. Bohr Jr., U.S. Marine Corps (1964-2003) Iowa

12. AUSTIN DILLON – 315 PTS
SO Chief Petty Officer Mark “Badger” Carter (SEAL), U.S. Navy (1980-2007) California

13. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 314 PTS
Lance Cpl. Aaron Howard Reed, U.S. Marine Corps (1963-2008) Ohio

14. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 296 PTS
Lance Cpl. Scott Albert Lynch, U.S. Marine Corps (1988-2010) New York

15. RYAN BLANEY – 288 PTS
Signalman Seaman Cherone L. Gunn, U.S. Navy (1978-2000) Virginia

16. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 283 PTS
Yeoman 3rd Class Wendell Williams, U.S. Navy (1965-1991) Ohio

17. RYAN NEWMAN – 278 PTS
Staff Sgt. Jason C. Ramseyer, U.S. Marine Corps (1977-2006) Florida

18. TREVOR BAYNE – 275 PTS
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason William McCormack, U.S. Army (1972-2015) Alabama

19. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 273 PTS
SP 4 James H. Woolard, U.S. Army (1949-1969) Ohio

20. KASEY KAHNE – 271 PTS
Lance Cpl. Eric Levi Ward, U.S. Marine Corps (1990-2010) Washington

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