OK, so there are still five races left. And Gordon and Stewart are going to be racing in all of them. But Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway all but ensured that they won't be racing for the championship.
Let's start with Gordon. He started the race on the pole but wasn't very consistent in practice. After a quick first lap, that lack of speed in race trim showed, and he fell to the back end of the top 10. Then Gordon's battery died and he spent more than half a lap trying to diagnose the problem and switch to battery 2.
That dropped him a lap down and Gordon stayed there after he was caught speeding down pit road for the second race in a row. He finished 23rd, and remains fourth in the Chase standings. However, with Jimmie Johnson's second place finish, Gordon's now 156 points behind his teammate with five races to go. That's too much to ask of a driver who hasn't won all season.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, it was an incident by Stewart's car that might have been his championship eliminator. When Ryan Newman spun and smacked the wall on lap two, Stewart -- who started 29th -- was hit in the right rear by David Gilliland. The damage necessitated three pit stops but even though it looked like it was fixed, Stewart was never able to get anywhere near the front, only reaching as high as 15th. He finished 21st, the last car on the lead lap.
Stewart fell to sixth in the points, albeit on a tiebreaker. He and Kyle Busch, who finished third, are 177 points behind Johnson.