We're four races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and I think it's safe to say the championship field has been whittled down to five drivers.
The bottom four drivers are at least 43 points out, too big a margin to make up with just six races remaining in the 2011 season. That group includes Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I really thought Jeff Gordon, the 10th-place driver, would be in the mix for the title come Homestead. Gordon was enjoying his finest season since 2007, but after a blown engine led to a 34th-place finish at Kansas, it looks like the Drive for Five will have to wait another year.
Gordon fell to 47 points off the lead and would need to reel off six straight top five finishes to end the year to have any chance at overcoming such a deficit.
Three other drivers can also be eliminated.
Tony Stewart came out of nowhere to win the first two Chase races, but he's fallen off the pace at Dover and Kansas and is now 19 points behind the leaders.
Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch have had good years. However, Busch lacks the consistency needed to win the title, and I believe Kenseth would be unable to match the Johnsons and Harvicks of NASCAR down the stretch in the fight for a second career title.
Who does that leave as the top five contenders? Read on to find out.