CONCORD, N.C. — It’s a near mathematical certainty that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin won’t be able to race their way into the top three of the Chase for the Championship during Saturday night’s Bank of America 500.
For some, it’s already impossible to get back into the top five in just one race. But none of them are ready to give up.
The race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway is the fifth in the playoffs for the Sprint Cup Series championship. While eight drivers remain very competitive in the Chase, the bottom four know they need a miracle just to get into contention and winning is an even bigger longshot.
So they know they must go for broke.
“We are quite a ways behind, and you sort of got to adjust your goals and when we got as far behind as we are, I think winning a race becomes a top priority,” Earnhardt said. “If you win races, the points take care of themselves.”
Earnhardt is 43 points behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Gordon trails by 47, Newman is down by 54, and Hamlin trails by 79.
The top eight drivers in the playoffs are separated by just 20 points. Each point translates to a finishing position, which means it’s possible for eighth-place Kyle Busch to become the leader after Saturday night’s race (7:30, ABC-Ch. 6) with a victory.
If the bottom four are going to get back into the championship picture, it’s going to take the rest of the playoffs to make it happen.
“There is time,” Newman said. “I don’t know how much time there is to get to first, I don’t know how much time there is for us to get to fifth from 11th but there is time.
“And there is Talladega mixed in there. I finished third there two years ago with Carl Edwards on my roof. You truly never know what is going to happen there. I don’t know.”
Of the four, Newman has the best chance to turn things around Saturday night. He qualified sixth Thursday.
Tony Stewart won the pole with a fast lap of 191.959 mph, while Matt Kenseth qualified second.