Commentary

Gordon, Edwards in Chase trouble

Updated: July 29, 2012, 8:52 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Gordon ran well in the Brickyard 400, finishing fifth. Carl Edwards didn't, finishing 29th. Not that it matters. Both drivers are in the same sinking ship.

Two of the biggest names in NASCAR, two men almost everyone would have thought were locks to make the Chase, will need something close to divine intervention to make the playoff now.

With six races remaining before the Chase, both drivers are winless. They need to win twice to have a shot at earning a wild card, and even that isn't a guarantee.

[+] EnlargeCarl Edwards
Justin Edmonds/NASCAR/Getty ImagesCarl Edwards and the crew will have to figure out what went wrong after a disastrous 29th-place finish at the Brickyard.

"I don't think we are points racing anymore," Edwards said. "I think we are officially racing only for wins now."

Both Edwards and Gordon are outside the top 10 and not likely to climb their way in to earn a spot on points.

It looks bad. The four-time Cup champion in Gordon and the championship runner-up last year in Edwards, who was one point short of the 2011 title, are in big trouble.

Gordon had the second-best car to his teammate, winner Jimmie Johnson, most of the afternoon Sunday.

"We had a car that could compete for the win," Gordon said. "It was one of the only ones that could compete with the 48 [Johnson]. They were that good. They deserve to win today and go to Victory Lane."

Johnson now has equaled his mentor in another major record, tying Gordon for the most NASCAR victories at Indy with four. Gordon needed to Drive for Five at Indy to keep the other Drive for Five alive to try to win a fifth championship.

"We had as good race car, if not better, than Jimmie," Gordon said. "But we couldn't get track position. The restarts, starting outside both times [on the last two restarts] definitely did not do us any favors.

"It's very hard to pass. We had a solid day, but I would have liked to have been up there at the end to battle Jimmie and at least make it a little harder for him."

Running well isn't good enough for Gordon now. He's 15th in the standings, 79 points behind Clint Bowyer in 10th. Winning races is the only realistic shot Gordon has to make the Chase.

It's not impossible. He won at Pocono and Atlanta last year, two of the six tracks left before the Chase. He has four career victories on the Watkins Glen road course, where the Sprint Cup Series races in two weeks.

The problem is two victories might not be enough. Three drivers who rank below 10th, but ahead of Gordon, already have won this season. Kyle Busch, 11th and holding down one wild-card position for now, and Ryan Newman, 14th, each have one win.

If either of them wins again before the Chase, Gordon could fall short of a wild-card spot even with two victories. And Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne has two wins in 13th. He is almost assured of one of the two wild-card spots.

Things don't look much better for Edwards. His car was off the pace only 12 laps into the race Sunday.

"We think it was some issue with the [electronic fuel injection unit]," Edwards said. "We changed that, along with the spark plugs, and the engine started running better. We had a very fast race car."

But having to pit under green early doomed Edwards. He was hoping for better in his first race with new crew chief Chad Norris.

"Chad got thrust into about the most terrible predicament a crew chief can be in,'' Edwards said. "We didn't know what was wrong with the engine and we were kind of points racing, but also racing for the win.

"We talked about it a little bit, and the silver lining is this kind of makes it official that we just go race for wins now for the next six races. I don't think there is much of a chance we are going to march back up there in the points."

We have to take chances. We can do that. We can race like that. It will actually be a big relief in a way because there is no other choice. We're just going all out to win.

-- Carl Edwards

Edwards dropped from 11th to 12th in the standings. He is 61 points behind Bowyer for the 10th spot. A driver can make up a maximum of 47 points in one race, but only if he wins, leads the most laps and the other guy finishes last. Bowyer has one victory.

Just like it is for Gordon, making the top 10 now is unlikely. Edwards need two trips to Victory Lane. But he hasn't won in the past 53 races, dating back to Las Vegas in March 2011.

Nevertheless, Edwards knows he can win at the upcoming tracks. He has three victories at Atlanta, and two each at Pocono, Michigan and Bristol.

Two victories probably would be enough for Edwards, since he's ahead of the other wild-card contenders except Kyle Busch.

"I think it will involve lots of pushing on the right pedal and turning left and going as fast as possible," Edwards said. "We have to take chances. We can do that. We can race like that. It will actually be a big relief in a way because there is no other choice. We're just going all out to win."

But the No. 99 Ford doesn't look like a team ready to win. Edwards has gone six consecutive races without a top-10 finish.

"Chad and I want to make sure [the team] knows that we do not quit," Edwards said. "We keep going. We don't give up. We put our best effort out there, and if it is meant to be, it will be. We can do it. We will just go racing and see what happens. I wouldn't bet against us."

Betting on Edwards or Gordon now is a long shot at best. However, if they do make the Chase, they'll do it the right way -- by winning.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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