Commentary

Is the Chase really a two-driver affair? No, but life support is needed for most

It might appear the Chase for the Nextel Cup is a two-driver affair. Do the math, though, and all 12 drivers are alive, even if most are on life support, writes Terry Blount.

Updated: November 3, 2007, 11:18 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Do the math. Check the numbers.

Everyone assumes the last three races of the Chase are the Jeff and Jimmie show for the championship. Maybe so, but for all the long-shot lovers out there, the arithmetic says otherwise.

Officially, all 12 drivers remain in contention to win the Nextel Cup. Yes, even Martin Truex Jr., who is 513 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

Truex needs more than a special prayer. He would need Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to sit out one of the last three races to have a shot at it.

What It Takes To Win The Chase

With three races left in the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup, all 12 drivers still are alive, although the status of each ranges from thriving to critical.

Jeff Gordon has a nine-point lead over teammate and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson could win this year's championship without winning even one of the final three races.

The following scenarios take into account how each driver could overtake Gordon in the final three races and, unless otherwise specified, include those drivers winning each race and leading the most laps.

Chase Chances
1) Jeff Gordon Chase leader
2) Jimmie Johnson
(-9 points)
Could take lead by finishing as few as two spots ahead of Gordon or by winning a race
3) Clint Bowyer
(-111)
Needs Gordon to average a sixth-place finish or worse
4) Carl Edwards
(-261)
Needs Gordon to average a 20th-place finish or worse
5) Tony Stewart
(-322)
Needs Gordon to average a 27th-place finish or worse
6) Kyle Busch
(-328)
Needs Gordon to average a 28th-place finish or worse
7) Kevin Harvick
(-392)
Needs Gordon to average a 35th-place finish or worse
8) Jeff Burton
(-400)
Needs Gordon to average a 36th-place finish or worse
9) Kurt Busch
(-419)
Needs Gordon to average a 38th-place finish or worse
10) Denny Hamlin
(-424)
Needs Gordon to average a 39th-place finish or worse
11) Matt Kenseth
(-448)
Needs Gordon to average a 41st-place finish or worse
12) Martin Truex Jr.
(-513)
Needs Gordon to not start one race and to finish 43rd without leading a lap in the other two

But Truex will start on the pole for the Dickie's 500 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, hoping to pull off the biggest upset in sports history.

The other Chasers remain mathematically eligible without the leaders needing to miss an event.

Granted, it's not an easy task.

For most of them, it borders on the miraculous.

Aside from Gordon and Johnson, the other Chase competitors need a winning trifecta to make the Hendrick Motorsports duo work for it.

Anything short of three consecutive victories makes it all but impossible to end up on top for everyone except third-place Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer is 111 points behind Gordon, and even he would need Gordon to go three races without a top-5 to catch him by winning all three and leading the most laps.

That scenario gets progressively worse as you get to 11th-place Matt Kenseth.

He needs to run the table in Victory Lane and have Gordon finish in the bottom three in all three events.

Hey, we said it was tough, but stranger things have happened.

Well, maybe not.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter