Hot 20 over the past 10 – The junior circuit needs a rejig, while our Cup leaders hope to avoid a bad day in Charlotte

by Ron Thornton On Wed, Oct. 09, 2013

Photo Credit: Gary Buchanan

As we head into Charlotte, there is a birthday to note and a milestone to recognize.  Dale Earnhardt Jr has celebrated his 39th birthday, and on Saturday night he will run in his 500th Cup start. It is a track he has yet to win on, a track that launched his Cup career back in 1999.

Of course, by that time Junior had already won his first of two junior circuit titles. In doing so, in 1998 and 1999, he claimed 13 victories. Imagine that, the champion of what, for now at least, is known as the Nationwide series actually winning races.  Regan Smith has won two and sits in second place. Sam Hornish Jr and the eighth place Trevor Bayne each has one. Austin Dillon leads Smith by eight points, and he has not yet won a blessed thing. I wonder why?

Four Nationwide drivers have won just four of 29 events.  Maybe it is a good thing that Kyle Busch missed seven of those races, for he has won 10 of those he has run. Brad Keselowski has five, Joey Logano has three, and two more claimed by Matt Kenseth. After fellow Cup drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick get credit for their wins, that leaves only the one to youngster Ryan Blaney and the two for two run of A.J. Allmendinger when he found the time when not running Cup or IndyCar.  So, exactly what is the purpose of the Nationwide series?

If it is to develop future Cup drivers, rather than providing Chasers or former Cup champions yet another opportunity to showcase their talents against lesser lights, then just maybe we have undermined the purpose of the series. Maybe we have turned the exercise into something of a joke. I do understand why they run there, why the track owners want to see them there, but as much as I would love to see such names as Cabrera, Ellsbury, and Scherzer on the field should I take in a game in Winnipeg, it would be wrong for them to be there in a regular American Association game. It is just as wrong for Kyle, Joey, Matt, et al to take the place of drivers who have hopes of climbing the ladder. There is nothing to be gained by having established  stars simply dropping down to the bushes,  as it were.

A solution? Allow Cup drivers five, and no more than five, opportunities to compete in any lower series than the one they are competing for points in. If Kyle Busch wishes to race in five Nationwide races and five truck events, let him do so. The fans would love it…but no more than five in each. Up and coming drivers would love the opportunity to compete, and to do so against their peers. They deserve no less. You can discuss.

While the others await a stumble from Kenseth as we head toward the fifth of the ten Chase events, our points leader remains the hottest driver over the past ten events. While Jimmie Johnson sits three points back in the standings, he is buried  in 17th place over the past ten starts. So, what if there is no stumble, what if these drivers average a tenth place finish the rest of the way?

With the advent of the Chase, whomever is the best over the final ten races of the season should be the champion. Obviously, making the Chase is necessary as well as taking into consideration the bonus advantage the leader takes in. Three points is what Kenseth had over Johnson going in, and three points is what he has today.

As we replace the results from Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond by those of Charlotte, Talladega, Martinsville, Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Homestead, let us assume both Kenseth and Johnson will average 34 points, a 10th place finish, from this point onward. If that were the case, Kenseth would end with a ten race total of 372 points, a dozen better than what he has today. If Jimmie Johnson replaces those results (13th, 8th, 40th, 36th, 28th, and 40th) in similar fashion, he also would wind up with 372 points, jumping his total by 103.

While Five Time is not among our hottest today, he will be in six weeks if he hopes to make it six. As hot as the Busch boys, Logano, Gordon, and Harvick might be right now, they will need better than a series of 10th place finishes to get back into the picture. That said, a bad day for two could equate into a great one for a few others.

TW Driver Win T5 T10 Points LW Rank
1 Matt Kenseth 3 3 5 360 1 1
2 Kurt Busch 0 6 7 352 5 7
3 Joey Logano 1 5 7 348 4 10
4 Jeff Gordon 0 3 7 342 6 4
5 Kyle Busch 2 5 6 337 2 5
6 Kevin Harvick 1 3 5 332 9 3
7 Greg Biffle 0 1 5 330 7 6
8 Ryan Newman 0 3 5 317 3 12
9 Jamie McMurray 0 2 2 310 8 14
10 Carl Edwards 1 3 5 304 10 11
11 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 2 6 294 11 8
12 Marcos Ambrose 0 0 3 288 15 20
13 Paul Menard 0 2 4 285 14 17
14 Juan Pablo Montoya 0 2 3 280 12 22
15 Kasey Kahne 1 2 3 275 13 13
16 Brad Keselowski 0 1 3 274 17 15
17 Jimmie Johnson 1 3 5 269 16 2
18 Jeff Burton 0 0 2 258 22 19
19 Martin Truex, Jr. 0 2 4 252 18 16
20 Aric Almirola 0 0 1 246 20 18
21 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 0 0 2 246 19 21
22 Clint Bowyer 0 1 4 242 21 9
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