Jeff Gordon admits getting into this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase now looks like a tall order.
The four-time champion's hopes depend on him beating Kyle Busch this weekend at Richmond – where the Joe Gibbs driver is a specialist. Gordon is currently 13th in the standings after his second-place finish at Atlanta and sits 12 points behind Busch, who remains in possession of the final Chase wild card entry.
The two wild card spots are awarded to the drivers between 11th and 20th in the points who have the most wins. With two victories so far, Kasey Kahne looks set to clinch the first, while Busch leads four other wild card contenders with single wins.
Should Gordon win this weekend's deciding race at Richmond he would automatically claim the second wild card. His other chances is to outscore Busch sufficiently to overcome the current 12-point gap and hope fellow wild card hopefuls Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano all fail to win.
"You don't want to have to go beat Kyle Busch at Richmond. He's pretty strong there," said Gordon.
"I think we're really just going to focus on our own program like we always do. We focus on tuning the car, communicating and working the set-up the best we possibly can and try to have the fastest racecar out there. If we can do that, then we try not to make any mistakes driving on pit road and pit strategy.
"If we don't have the fastest car we've got to switch it up and it puts a little more pressure on the crew chief or maybe even on me if we try some tire strategy, fuel mileage strategy, whatever we do track position wise, but you can't predict any of those things. We've got to go out there and race. You've got to race hard.
"I'm not going into it thinking that we've got to finish, whatever, 12 positions ahead of Kyle. I'm thinking we've got to win. And if we don't make it, as long as we put our best effort forward, we didn't make it, then we go try to win races in the final 10."
Since the playoff series format was implemented eight years ago, Gordon has only missed the Chase once, back in 2005.