We're now halfway through the 2013 Chase and if these first five races are any indication, there's just no way that anyone can make up ground on Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
There just isn't the opportunity.
Kenseth and Johnson were at it again tonight, finishing third and fourth, respectively. Because each driver led a lap, Kenseth extended his lead over Johnson by a point to four.
In the nine years of the Chase, the eventual champion left Charlotte with the points lead six times, with Jeff Burton in 2006, Jeff Gordon in 2007 and Carl Edwards in 2011 the exceptions.
Kevin Harvick is still in third in the standings, but after finishing sixth, he's 29 points back. That's more than half a race, which is not a good sign for his Chase chances. Only Johnson in 2006 has won the Chase after being more than a half of a race's worth of points out of the top spot.
In 2011, Tony Stewart was a 24 points behind, which is exactly half. But it took Stewart winning three of the final five races to win the championship on the total wins tiebreaker. The chances of Harvick or anyone else below him for that matter, don't look very good at all.
Yes, the Talladega effect is still there, and the restrictor plate track looms large as the next race on Cup calendar. But that may also be overstated. Since 2009, Dega has been after Charlotte in the Chase. But in each of those four years, the driver entering Talladega with the points lead has left with the points lead and the gap between first and second has always grown.
That doesn't mean we could see something crazy over the next five races; anything could happen. Just don't bet on it.