Bowyer, Gordon going opposite ways

Jeff Gordon was a huge surprise at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

He qualified 13th, and he and his Hendrick Motorsports team seemed fairly happy with their car in the two practices Saturday at the track.

Then in the race, he really searched and struggled most of the night. He ended up with an 18th-place finish. That kind of just wiped out, points-wise, those three awesome finishes he had in a row since that bad finish at Chicagoland Speedway.

Now with five down and five to go, he finds himself 50 points out of the lead, ninth in the points. That’s way too big of a mountain to climb.

Clint Bowyer is the inspiration for drivers deeper in the Chase for the Sprint Cup because he headed into the Charlotte race 40 points out and he chopped 12 points off with his win Saturday night. He’s now 28 back and in fourth place. But, for example, look right now at Martin Truex Jr., who is seventh and 49 points out. That’s more than a full race.

So not only is he more than a full race out, he’s got the six best drivers and the best teams in front of him.

I think we can safely say any driver in seventh or lower in the standings is out of this championship hunt.

Realistically, we’ve kind of changed our tune a little bit because of what Bowyer did at Charlotte, but I think we’ve probably got — at best — a four-man race. Now after Kansas — where the top two or three might have some issues and Kasey Kahne might win the race — I might have to say now we’ve got a five-man race.