Stewart, also winless this year, needs to finish 18th or better to be a Chaser.
The system has rewarded winning. With three victories this season, Brad Keselowski, in 11th place, has clinched one of the two wild-card berths. Denny Hamlin (one win) holds the other wild card. If Paul Menard (also one W) wins at Richmond, he would secure the second wild card.
Wild cards go to drivers ranked from 11th to 20th who have the most wins.
GORDON'S NO. 3
A tip of the ol' restrictor plate to Jeff Gordon for collecting his 85th career Cup series victory Tuesday in the rain-delayed race at Atlanta. Gordon is now third on the all-time list behind Richard Petty (200 wins) and David Pearson (105).
The way Gordon held off teammate Jimmie Johnson over the last few laps was clean racing at its best. Asked where the duel with five-time reigning champion Johnson ranks on his career list, Gordon smiled and said: "It's going to rank way up there because we won. From where I was sitting, it was very frustrating and intense. I mean, I felt like I was swatting flies inside there, I was so loose. I was just trying to squeeze the throttle down to get a little bit of an edge, and when I did that, the whole back end [of the No. 24 Chevrolet] would slide out.
"And certainly when you're battling with a guy as talented as Jimmie is and that team as good as they are, definitely it's going to be one that's going to be significant. That's the kind of race team we have right now. [Previously] we've not been able to do battle with those guys like we have this year, especially the last several weeks. And that's what's got me extremely excited."
PHILLY NOT 'PERFECT FIT'
Watching the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix Sunday, I kept thinking, "Why isn't this happening in Philly instead of Baltimore?"
Baltimore's first IndyCar series was proclaimed a huge success for a first-time event. Winner Will Power called it "our best street race all year." Scott Dixon said, "It was fantastic for a first event."
The Versus TV network estimated Sunday's crowd at 75,000. That's probably a little high, but the grandstands were full. Another estimate had 150,000 people attending the 3-day event near the Inner Harbor and the Orioles' Camden Yards stadium.
Six years ago, the now-defunct Champ Car series proposed a Philadelphia race. Actor/racer Paul Newman visited Philly as part of the push for an open-wheel race. Recalling Newman's visit yesterday, Larry Needle, executive director of the The Sports Congress, said, "We did our due diligence investigating the possibility of holding a race."
Needle said using the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the course "would've impacted traffic and the quality of life in the weeks leading up to the race. It was a collective decision that the race just wasn't a perfect fit for us."
The cost of staging such a race would have been prohibitive considering Philly's financial troubles. Baltimore reportedly spent $6 million, including federal stimulus funds, to stage the race. Officials there think the traffic snarls and other inconveniences were outweighed by the tourism boost and other pluses.
"This could be our Monaco," racer Simona deSilvestro said.
THIS WEEK'S RACE
Wonderful Pistachios 400
Richmond International Raceway
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ABC6/WNPV (1440-AM)
Race course: .75-mile oval
Race distance: 400 laps/300 miles
Race forecast: clear, mid-70s
Last year's winner: Denny Hamlin
Last year's pole winner: Carl Edwards, 127.762 mph
Track qualifying record: Brian Vickers, 129.983 mph
Track facts: Kyle Busch won the spring race at RIR, giving him three wins in the last five races at the track. With Denny Hamlin winning the other two RIR races, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota drivers are on a five-race winning streak ... Hamlin led 251 laps last year for his sixth win of the season. Kyle Busch was runner-up ... Carl Edwards' fifth-place at Atlanta Tuesday was his first top-five finish in the last seven races ... Kevin Harvick has only two top-10s in the last eight races ... Several race teams are carrying 9/11 themes in the race. Three laps of silence will occur on laps 9 through 11 ... Defending champion Jimmie Johnson headed a group of eight drivers who visited the White House yesterday.
Wins: Kyle Busch leads with 4; Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon all have 3.
SPRINT CUP STANDINGS
Through 25 of 36 races
1. Jimmie Johnson, 873 points
2. Kyle Busch, 852
3. Carl Edwards,835
4. Matt Kenseth, 834
5. Jeff Gordon, 830
6. Kevin Harvick, 819
7. Kurt Busch, 789
8. Ryan Newman, 786
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 753
10. Tony Stewart, 751
11. x-Brad Keselowski, 728
12. y-Denny Hamlin, 709
x- No. 1 wild card; y-No. 2 wild card
Chase for the Championship is made up of top 10 drivers, plus two wild cards chosen on the basis of most wins.
UP NEXT: Geico 400, Sept. 18, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill., 2 p.m.; TV: ESPN; last year's winner: David Reutimann.