Hot 20 – You know all the big names on this list heading to Fontana, and some not among them

Despite placing fourth on Sunday, no Ricky Stenhouse Jr. No Dale Earnhardt Jr. Neither Austin Dillon or Ty Dillon. No Danica Patrick. A.J. Allmendinger was third at Daytona, outside the Top Twenty ever since. One can have the name, the equipment, the marketing, but results are what matters and for some those results just have not been there just yet.

However, each and every one managing to crack our Hot 20 not only are known but they have done well enough. I mean, just by averaging 18 points per race, an average of 19th place per contest without stage bonuses, is all it takes to be in Cup racing’s top tier. Not a high fence to get over, you would think.

Just six points separate Stenhouse, Earnhardt, and the Dillons from leaping up, but it gets a little more serious for Patrick and Allmendinger. Patrick is 20 back, while Allmendinger is a head scratching 33 off the pace. If this was the NFL or MLB instead of NASCAR, somebody would start getting a little anxious. Maybe some are.

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California would be the apropos place to have a eureka moment. For some, in the words of U-2, they still haven’t found what they are looking for.

1. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN – 178 PTS
After Daytona wreck, a win and a trio of Top Fives. He found it, and never had to look for it.

2. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN – 153 PTS
Six wins in three seasons. Barney Visser’s crew has come a long way since its 2005 debut.

3. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN – 105 PTS
Does Energizer have a car battery, one that keeps going and going and going?

4. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN – 101 PTS
Joins previous Childress drivers who have won at Phoenix; Dale Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick.

5. KYLE LARSON – 184 PTS
Runner-up in four of the past five races. Striving for Miss Congeniality next?

6. CHASE ELLIOTT – 171 PTS
21-year-old’s worst finish in his last nine races is 14th. Hard to miss him week in and week out.

7. JOEY LOGANO – 135 PTS
No one can claim he wrecked on purpose to ruin Kyle’s day….not this time.

8. RYAN BLANEY – 127 PTS
With only three wins over the past 25 years, the Wood Brothers expect their fortunes to change.

9. KEVIN HARVICK – 123 PTS
Happy Hours begins next Tuesday from 7 to 9 pm ET, on SiriusXM, Channel 90.

10. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 119 PTS
Reserves his wins for Charlotte (2), Daytona (2), Talladega (2), and Indianapolis (1).

11. KASEY KAHNE – 105 PTS
Still holding the fort, along with Chase, as they wait for those other two guys to gain traction.

12. TREVOR BAYNE – 100 PTS
Last Wood Brothers winner (2011) wants to be the first for Roush since Carl Edwards (2014).

13T. KYLE BUSCH – 97 PTS
Dear Joey: I hate you. Most sincerely, Kyle.

13T. DENNY HAMLIN – 97 PTS
Screw the racing. Auctioneering is where his future lies – Sandy Wexler.

13T. CLINT BOWYER – 97 PTS
Other than for Daytona, the results have been fine. Not great, but certainly not bad.

16. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 93 PTS
California should be his to win…but wasn’t that what I said about Harvick at Phoenix?

17. ARIC ALMIROLA – 90 PTS
Another Daytona win for the boss’s 80th birthday would be a nice gift idea.

18. ERIK JONES – 82 PTS
What were you doing at 20 years of age?

19. PAUL MENARD – 78 PTS
There are 30 Menards locations near Fontana. Hey, if I can shill for Harvick, I can for Paul’s dad.

20T. MATT KENSETH – 72 PTS
It might have been only one point at Phoenix, but what a lovely point it was.

20T. DANIEL SUAREZ – 72 PTS
Might this rookie be finding his legs…or maybe just finding his wheels?

Update:

Penalties announced by NASCAR soon after this column was published have little effect on the standings. If not successfully appealed, the loss of 35 points by Keselowski only drops him to second, behind Truex, as wins trump points. Harvick’s loss of 10 points only finds him swapping places with McMurray.

Meanwhile, Allmendinger’s 35 point penalty at Atlanta was upheld on appeal. Still, even if it had not been, he would still have been sitting 20th, a couple of points ahead of Kenseth and Suarez. It is still early in the season, which only means this team has time to catch up…if they can catch up.

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