KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Four-time champion Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon finds himself in a NASCAR no-man's land.
This is the first year of NASCAR's awarding two wild-card berths for the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
And Gordon is sitting a distant 16th heading into Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
The two-wild card spots will go to the two non-top-10 drivers with the most wins, as long as they're among the top 20 in points. Gordon has an advantage over other wild-card contenders because his win at Phoenix makes him the only one with a victory among those 11th through 20th.
But he'll probably need at least one more win to get in. Maybe more.
"We're going for broke to get the Ws now," said Gordon. "All we're thinking about is making our car go faster every weekend, trying to get ourselves in position to get those good finishes and hopefully get those wins."
So with 13 races left before the Chase begins, expect the wild-card race to get pretty intense as the five drivers ahead of Gordon in the standings -- Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, A.J. Allmendinger, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya, as well as those immediately behind -- may have to take some chances to come up with those precious victories.
"We know it's crunch time for us," Biffle said. "We're in the 11th spot, and we need to get that win. ... We need to get some more points. I'm feeling the pressure, trust me."
Even those deeper in the standings, such as Brad Keselowski, think they can take advantage of the new wild-card system.
"I really, really like the idea that wins will get you into the Chase," said Keselowski, who is 25th. "That puts perhaps more of an emphasis on winning, and personally I'm thrilled to see how the next few races until the Chase begins go. ... There are 13 to go. That's 13 opportunities to win a race, and it's going to take one or two wins to get in with that wild card. So we feel pretty good
"That's going to add a lot of excitement to these races. It's going to be like a countdown. . . . It just keeps getting a little more tense . . . a little more tense . . . everybody takes a little bit more chances. That ought to be very interesting. It's going to be exciting, not just for fans, but even for me and my team."
Clint Bowyer, who is eighth in the standings, is not crazy about the fact drivers who have shown little through the first half of the year can make the Chase based on a couple of victories.
"I'm not a big fan of that," Bowyer said. " I just feel like if I was running a Chase format and had 12 teams to run for a championship; I'd want my 12 best teams over the course of a year to be able to compete for that.
"I just don't see how a guy running 19th in points, and if he were to win on a rain-delayed race or a fuel mileage race or something like that, how he would stack up against the competition in a 10-race Chase for the Championship."
If the Chase began today, Kevin Harvick, the series leader with three wins, would begin in first place after the points are reset. He's currently second in points to Carl Edwards, who has just one win. At worst, Harvick is a shoo-in for a wild-card with those three wins.
That means drivers such as Harvick and Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who have two wins each, have little to lose and can push the envelope in pursuit of the checkered flag.
"I'll take our chances on making the Chase with the wild-card stuff," Harvick said. "So I feel like we can take more chances than we did last year. ...
"Honestly, I feel like we can really push the limits on racing, and just the fact that we have got that (wild card) in our back pocket. Something that we have only done once before is win back-to-back weeks, and to come out this season and win at racetracks that we had not won at before ... is good for our confidence to say the least
Five drivers in the top 10 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth), Kurt Busch (sixth), Bowyer (eighth), Tony Stewart (ninth) and Ryan Newman (10th) -- are without victories and know a win or two would solidify their positions in the Chase.
"If the winner's percentage works out the way it did last year, one win will make you a Chase contender, two wins will guarantee you a spot," Newman said. "If you win two races, as a couple guys have done now, the rest of the summer is potentially just a matter of either collecting more wins or trying different things because you're into the Chase based on the history."
Kenseth pointed to the catalyst for the rule change, Jamie McMurray, who last year won the two most prestigious races on the calendar -- the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 -- but missed the Chase .
"Jamie last year had three wins (including one during the Chase) and didn't get in, so you don't know what's going to happen," Kenseth said. "I don't want to be like, 'Oh, we've got two wins so we're in, and we don't have to worry about the next three months.'
"You want to go out and try to win more races, you want to try to run up front and be consistent and be a contender week in and week out no matter what time of year it is."
This year, McMurray has just two top-10 finishes and is sitting 26th But is anyone really out of wild-card contention?
"In the last five races leading up to the Chase, you might see some questionable gambles, ... whatever it takes to get the points that they got to have," Earnhardt said. "I don't think you will see those kinds of gambles until then."