Time can bring us many wonderful memories, but it comes with change. Most of us are not all that fond of change. Once we watched the likes of Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and the Alabama Gang take to the track, to thrill us with their exploits. That was then. Time changed that.
Jeff Gordon prepares to enter his 790th consecutive Cup race, but time is ticking down on his great Hall of Fame career. Tony Stewart has one more season left in him, then he goes to the sidelines. NASCAR gives us a little more time for most of our favorites than other sports, where our heroes are usually finished by the time they hit 40. Still, even in NASCAR, it is an age when the countdown seems to begin, whether we like it or not.
We have Greg Biffle, 45, and Matt Kenseth, 43, getting up there. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both are now 40. Next season, so will Kevin Harvick. Sure, there is always a Chase Elliott working his way up, or an Erik Jones, but we treasure those who we cheered for in our youth, then for those our own age who claimed our support, then we watch those even younger than ourselves hanging them up. Damned time.
Nothing makes a person feel older than when one of the kids decides to retire. We might find some solace in that one of those seniors is leading the pack heading into Dover this weekend. A senior. I was already driving when that old fossil was born. At least I can still do the same number of backflips that I could do forty years ago.
I wonder what it is like to do a backflip?
Here are our Hot 20 heading to their date with the Monster Mile.
1. MATT KENSETH – CHASE WIN
You do not have to be the most dominant as long as you finish first.
2. DENNY HAMLIN – CHASE WIN
First at Chicago, second at Loudon. Is Hamlin trying to tell us something?
3. CARL EDWARDS – 2089 POINTS
A Top 30 finish is all he needs to move on.
4. JOEY LOGANO – 2089
As long as it isn’t in a first lap wreck, staying up with Edwards should do the trick.
5. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2083
A visit to Dover and an 11th win on the Monster Mile would be lovely at this time of year.
6. RYAN NEWMAN – 2074
How did he end up way up here?
7. KURT BUSCH – 2073
Minimal success, with minimal problems, just might work in the Challenger round.
8. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2072
Jumped a re-start, was running second at the first turn, then 24th after the penalty.
9. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 2071
I’m thinking a move to Toyota sure beats a move to Volkswagen about now. Just sayin’.
10. JEFF GORDON – 2068
The length of Gordon’s Cup career is about to turn 790 races long, with no interruptions.
11. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 2058
It is time for McMurray to McDrive his arse off.
12. DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – 2057
Driving with an empty bladder is a joy for us, not so much late in the race in NASCAR.
13. PAUL MENARD – 2056
Can a driver with a single career Cup win really be a serious candidate for the championship?
14. KYLE BUSCH – 2056
Damn tire. Damn wall.
15. KEVIN HARVICK – 2034
Dear Kyle: It could be worse.
16. CLINT BOWYER – 2018
Tony promises to never goad me into spinning out on purpose, so I will never have to fib again.
17. KASEY KAHNE – 732
2016 came a lot earlier than Kasey had hoped.
18. ARIC ALMIROLA – 728
Came close to making the Chase, but even closer to the wall at New Hampshire.
19. KYLE LARSON – 683
Stewart wanted the 23-year-old Larson, settled for the 36-year old Bowyer in 2017.
20. GREG BIFFLE – 675
Finishing fourth at Loudon means we might not see Austin Dillon make this list again in 2015.