Big names may not make Chase

Strap on your HANS device, everybody.

It's going to be a wild ride with six races to go before the 12-driver field is set for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.


The top seven guys are safe. But once you get below Jeff Gordon, now seventh, there's a lot of jockeying for the last five slots, especially since the last two will place a premium on victories.

That could eliminate Tony Stewart (ninth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10th), Clint Bowyer (12th) and Greg Biffle (13th). None of those guys has a victory, leaving them in a precarious position to qualify. They will be driving without a safety net. Any major mistakes will take them out of the running.

As always, much of the drama will revolve around Earnhardt. After finishing 16th at the Brickyard 400, Earnhardt dropped another spot in the points. If he remains winless and continues his downward spiral, Earnhardt won't qualify.

"We'll try not to worry about it," Earnhardt said after Sunday's race. "We'll go to Pocono and try not to let that overwhelm us or consume us and try to focus on the next racetrack. We're going testing and try to go to Pocono and do better than we did last time."

However it plays out, it will make for one dramatic finish in the regular-season finale at Richmond.

Happy birthday: Jeff Gordon turns 40 Thursday.

"I'm going to be 40, but I'm not in the rocking chair yet," Gordon said after winning at Pocono Raceway in June, marking his 84th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.

He continues to age gracefully. After 20 races, Gordon has scored seven top-fives and nine top-10s.

Bowyer/RCR close: Bowyer is dismissing speculation that he will replace Carl Edwards at Roush Racing if Edwards bolts to the Joe Gibbs team. He said he is close to re-signing with Richard Childress Racing. "I hope we have it done in a couple of days," he said. "We're getting close." Asked if he was looking elsewhere, Bowyer said, "No, we are getting close to having a deal put together."

Stewart likes Indy: After finishing sixth at Indy, Stewart has seven top-10 finishes in the last eight races there. At one point, Stewart was all the way back to 32nd place. "That's a long day at the office," Stewart said. "Yeah, that's a hard way to do it, man."