We evaluated the performance of 12 ground‐motion models (GMMs) for earthquakes in the tectonically active shallow crustal region of southern California using instrumental ground‐motion observations from the 2019 Ridgecrest, California, earthquake sequence ( 4.0–7.1). The sequence was well recorded by the Southern California Seismic Network and rapid response portable aftershock monitoring stations. Ground‐motion recordings of this size and proximity are rare, valuable, and independent of GMM development, allowing us to evaluate the predictive powers of GMMs. We first compute total residuals and compare the probability density functions, means, and standard deviations of the observed and predicted ground motions. Next we use the total residuals as inputs to the probabilistic scoring method (log‐likelihood [LLH]). The LLH method provides a single score that can be used to weight GMMs in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM) logic trees. We also explore GMM performance for a range of earthquake magnitudes, wave propagation distances, and site characteristics. We find that the Next Generation Attenuation West‐2 (NGAW2) active crust GMMs perform well for the 2019 Ridgecrest, California, earthquake sequence and thus validate their use in the 2018 USGS NSHM. However, significant ground‐motion residual scatter remains unmodeled by NGAW2 GMMs due to complexities such as local site amplification and source directivity. Results from this study will inform logic‐tree weights for updates to the USGS National NSHM. Results from this study support the use of nonergodic GMMs that can account for regional attenuation and site variations to minimize epistemic uncertainty in USGS NSHMs.