Hot 20 – Motor Car Racing’s biggest day after one of NASCAR’s most newsworthy weeks

Change. Sometimes change is good, like when you win a few million dollars. That is good. You get married to your sweetheart. Good. Your children start arriving. If you are a mature adult, and not some self-serving narcissist, that is very good. New talented drivers emerge on the scene. That is also a good thing.

Some change sucks. Your favorite driver retiring, for example, if only for very selfish reasons. Trying to dump the Southern 500 was a bad thing. Abandoning such traditional names as the Firecracker 400 and the World 600 is not only bad but makes you appear dumb as a stick. About as dumb as adding a third stage for points in a 600-mile race, allowing the possibility of the driver finishing 26th to wind up with more points than the race winner. That is bad, also.

As for changes in the 2018 schedule, good or bad? That is the question. Moving the Brickyard 400 to September? Iconic track, bad venue for NASCAR in my opinion. It does not much matter. Move Richmond from the final race of the regular campaign to the second of the Chase? It might work. Small market, short track, tons of tradition. Maybe.

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Changing the fall race in Charlotte to include its road course section? The World 600 is iconic. The fall race is not. Anything that includes another road course is good, but we will not know for sure until we see it. Will we be entertained? The fact that it is a Chase race ticks a box, and if it continues to be a 500-mile contest it would be by far the longest road course endurance test on the circuit.

They thought about changing to the road course at Indianapolis. Those in charge of the iconic venue said no. Indy was all about the oval, in their opinion, period. I guess they decided not to cry over spilled milk and moved on.

The Hall of Fame might need to change. Each year, they elect five more to be enshrined. Once, you needed a championship or 40 plus wins to get in. Now, no title and under 20 victories might still be enough. Mind you, Wendell Scott won just one race but his NASCAR journey was a lot like Andy Dufresne’s trek out of Shawshank. He deserves to be there. Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the other hand, once was a long-shot but today he is an automatic thanks to Curtis Turner’s induction in 2016. Is a change required? You be the judge.

This week, the new inductees were announced. For a change, I can not argue with any of them. Engine builder and team owner Robert Yates. Inaugural NASCAR champ Red Byron. Championship crew chief and team owner Ray Evernham. Broadcast icon Ken Squier. Truck king Ron Hornaday. Next year, maybe mechanic, builder and crew chief Smokey Yunick might be included. He may not have kissed many rings and certainly no one’s ass, but he more than earned his spot. A softening of their attitude regarding him would be a most welcome change.

Of course, for a change, this Sunday it is about more than just NASCAR. The Formula One offering starts the day with the Grand Prix of Monaco. Back on this side of the pond, the open wheelers are featured in the Indianapolis 500. Down south, the World 600 comes our way from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton lead the way in F-1’s sixth race of the season. IndyCar finds Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon the top dogs. As for NASCAR, here is a look at our Hot 20 heading to Charlotte. In the words of Jackie Stewart, let the motor car racing begin.

1. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 2 WINS – 431 PTS
When it comes to who should win this race this year, Truex is a “no change” kind of guy.

2. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS – 408 PTS
A rule is not “made up” if you failed to read the fine print. Sticker tires are 100% unused.

3. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2 WINS – 323 PTS
NASCAR makes up new rules, Johnson keeps winning championships. Expect more rules.

4. KYLE LARSON – 1 WIN – 475 PTS
Thinks All-Star race and season finale should move to different venues. He is wrong, of course.

5. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN – 320 PTS
Joey and Danica will be in the lineup. Aric Almirola is gone for two or three months.

6. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 1 WIN – 276 PTS
You would think a boy from Olive Branch, Mississippi would be the most peaceful guy out there.

7. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN – 246 PTS
Well, all day long at the track all I hear is how great Kyle is at this or that! Kyle, Kyle, Kyle!

8. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN – 238 PTS
Rocket Man? Amongst our race winners, it is more like he is the Invisible Man.

9. CHASE ELLIOTT – 361 PTS
After the fan vote last week, Chase is the new Danica. Okay, a more manly version.

10. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 354 PTS
Has won twice at Charlotte, but never this classic event.

11. KEVIN HARVICK – 347 PTS
Believes Truck Series should be run at non-Cup tracks, to bring out the fans. Harvick is right.

12. KYLE BUSCH – 325 PTS
Last week it was for money, this week it is for points.

13. CLINT BOWYER – 317 PTS
If it is not a rule, then Crew Chief Mike Bugarewicz gets in touch with his inner Smokey Yunick.

14. RYAN BLANEY – 291 PTS
His dad did not get his shot until he was in his late 30’s. Ryan knows that he is a fortunate son.

15. DENNY HAMLIN – 289 PTS
29 career wins, but not one yet at Charlotte. There is always Sunday.

16. TREVOR BAYNE – 250 PTS
Failed to join his fellow stars in Saturday’s big race. He has incentive to do well this weekend.

17. KASEY KAHNE – 242 PTS
Last week he won $1000 in a World of Outlaws race. So, they release prize money figures?

18. MATT KENSETH – 233 PTS
At least seven in the line-up for Sunday will wind up in the Hall of Fame. Matt is one of them.

19. ERIK JONES – 217 PTS
Stay off the grass.

20. DANIEL SUAREZ – 217 PTS
Was last week his coming out party?

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