During Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, something dawned on me: Is there a real possibility of Jeff Gordon missing the Chase for just the second time in his career?
And can someone really come to this conclusion just eight races into the year?
Yes and yes.
After next weekend's race at Richmond, we'll be 1/3 of the way through NASCAR's regular season. And after his 21st-place finish Sunday – caused by an engine that dropped a cylinder in the closing laps – Gordon finds himself 18th in driver points.
So Gordon is staring up at a bevy of drivers who have shown more consistency than he has this season.
Despite his Chevrolet regularly being among the fastest cars on the track this year, Gordon has just two top-10 finishes to his name, as his season is crumbling due to a bout of bad luck that has followed him around like a plague.
Whether it was at Daytona where Gordon blew a motor while running in the top five, to wrecking at Bristol after contact with a teammate, to Martinsville where he led over 300 laps but finished 14th after a late-race incident not of his own doing, add Gordon's season up and he has finished 20th or worse an astounding 50 percent of the time.
All of which is why, if Gordon is to make the Chase for the eighth time in nine years, it's not going to be because he's climbed his way into the top 10 in standings. At this point, he hasn't shown enough consistency to think this is at all a possibility.
The only way Gordon will find himself competing for the championship when the Chase starts in September at Chicagoland is if he takes the speed he's shown so far and turns it into something tangible – specifically, race wins.
And that's plural, not singular.
With Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski all in the same boat that Gordon is in, struggling to find some consistency, Gordon will need multiple race wins to claim a wild card spot and make the Chase.
Busch is well-known for winning in bunches, and his Joe Gibbs Racing team obviously is on to something considering Busch's teammate Denny Hamlin already has two victories this year, with his most recent tally coming Sunday in Kansas. As for Keselowski, his dominant win at Bristol a few weeks back already has him one up on Gordon in the wins column.
Unless Gordon starts winning enough to secure himself one of the two wild card spots, it's looking as if he's going to be on the outside looking in while 12 other drivers go toe-to-toe for the title.
Maybe this is all a moot point and I'm just jumping to illogical conclusions; it certainly wouldn't be the first time and it certainly won't be the last.
But seeing is believing, and what I'm seeing right now is a team that desperately needs to change its mindset from "This dose of bad luck will eventually go away and we'll be just fine," to "The hell with it, we're going to do whatever it takes to win; otherwise, we're in trouble."
If not, Gordon's quest for a fifth Sprint Cup Series title will have to wait yet another year.