Hot 20 – There are a lot of nice things to do in Phoenix, but winning Sunday would be the nicest

I like being nice. Sure, I can bitch with the best of them, but it is nice when one can say nice things about someone. For instance, I think NASCAR did the right thing by calling the race at Texas last week. Let me see, the race was already delayed by five hours and the skies really opened up with 40 to go. Damn right they should have wrapped things up when they did. The fans at the track no doubt had enough. Those watching on television had enough. We all knew it was going to get wet again, and Carl Edwards was leading when it came down. I see no controversy over the call. In fact, it was downright merciful.

I think it is nice when someone decides that family comes first, even if it is not what fans want to hear. Twenty-eight-year-old Brian Scott is stepping out of his ride with Richard Petty next season to spend more time with his family. He admits the Cup schedule “has taken its toll” and caused him “to re-evaluate what I want in life for myself and for my family.” You cannot blame a man for that. Some things are just more important.

Like honoring the life of a five-year-old boy. Jake Leatherman’s journey came to an end after a valiant battle against juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia. He had become a huge NASCAR fan, and when his mom asked if anyone in the NASCAR community could attend his services this past week in uniform, they did not let him and his family down. They represented such organizations as Penske, Stewart-Haas, Childress, Hendrick and Petty. Sometimes the youngest among us can inspire us to be our best.

It is sure nice to see that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has returned to racing. Well, not actually racing. Just driving fast. Faster than the law will allow. No pit road penalty, just a cop and a ticket book. Welcome back, Junior!

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The boys and girl are welcomed back to Phoenix on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson and Edwards are locked into the Final Four. Joey Logano and Kyle Busch are in, but by just a point over Matt Kenseth and two ahead of Denny Hamlin. Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch either have to win or hope it is a bad day at Black Rock sort of situation for those other dudes.

1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – SEGMENT WIN (4074 Pts)
Just another nice Sunday drive chatting with Chad on his radio.

2. CARL EDWARDS – SEGMENT WIN (4049 Pts)
Was like Gene Kelly last week. You know, just singing in the rain.

3. JOEY LOGANO – 4074 PTS
After he and Brittany attended young Jake’s funeral this week, I have a whole new level of respect for this couple.

4. KYLE BUSCH – 4074 PTS
Good luck, Kyle. Go out there and break a leg. What? Too soon?

5. MATT KENSETH – 4073 PTS
Was having just a so-so season until Dover…then things just sort of perked right up.

6. DENNY HAMLIN – 4072 PTS
Two spots open, two points separating the top four contenders.

7. KEVIN HARVICK – 4056 PTS
Of course, if Harvick wins yet again at Phoenix, one of those spots would be spoken for.

8. KURT BUSCH – 4040 PTS
Eight remaining Chasers, five of ‘em former champions.

9. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 2265 PTS
Driver most likely to be leading a race won’t win a title this year due to bad luck.

10. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2234 PTS
Four-time winner this season, he might not be done yet.

11. CHASE ELLIOTT – 2223 PTS
We know his dad is happy the way Tuesday turned out. You know, so am I.

12. KYLE LARSON – 2209 PTS
Inexperienced enough to continue driving XFINITY…good enough to win Texas event.

13. AUSTIN DILLON – 2192 PTS
After Texas, the “Silver Spoon Kid” might be gunning for the outlaw known as Happy.

14. TONY STEWART – 2166 PTS
1 IRL title, 3 Cup crowns, 2 Brickyard 400’s, 4 Firecracker 400’s, 8 road course wins.

15. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 2165 PTS
Wonders how you might be set in regards to ratcheting wrenches and hand tools.

16. CHRIS BUESCHER – 2143 PTS
I am sure he agrees with me that sometimes you just have to call a race early.

17. KASEY KAHNE – 866 PTS
Spending his summer driving in Australia. Summer there begins in December.

18. RYAN NEWMAN – 850 PTS
Was caught on a hot mic saying bad things at Texas. The President-Elect knows how that feels.

19. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 773 PTS
17th in Texas snapped a three-race streak of Top Tens.

20. RYAN BLANEY – 764 PTS
Considering who is not on this list, this has been a pretty decent season for the 22-year old.

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