For every driver in the Chase for the Sprint Cup not named Denny Hamlin, the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is of critical importance.
With one race down and two to go in the Chase Challenger Round from which 12 of 16 drivers will advance into the Contender Round, the window of opportunity and margin for error are small for the 15 drivers with a chance to join Hamlin.
Just 25 points separate championship leader Matt Kenseth from 14th-place Paul Menard. Reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick is 15th, 43 points out of first and 22 points behind bubble driver Jeff Gordon in 12th.
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Bringing up the rear is Clint Bowyer, who after a 25-point penalty earlier this week sits 52 points in arrears of Kenseth, and 31 behind Gordon. (Bowyer is appealing the penalty).
For all practical matters, Harvick and Bowyer probably need to win Sunday in New Hampshire or next weekend at Dover to move on in the Chase. Everyone else has at least a decent chance to advance without a win -- which automatically qualifies a driver for the next round.
Harvick certainly looks poised to take care of business on Sunday. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver qualified second and led the way in Saturday's final practice at the flat, 1-mile New Hampshire oval.
Joey Logano, a three-time winner this season and one of the favorites to capture the title, isn't inclined to write the obituary on Harvick's bid to become a back-to-back champion -- as much as he wouldn't mind seeing Harvick fail to advance.
"Obviously, the 4 car (Harvick) is one of the fastest cars every week," Logano said. "They led the points for most of the season, so you know they've got speed everywhere they go. I wouldn't consider them out at this point by no means. They're still a very strong team and they'll be up there racing hard and trying to get to the next round."
In addition to needing a win to keep his title hopes alive, Harvick has extra incentive after contact with Jimmie Johnson resulted in a cut tire and crippling 42nd-place finish in the Chase opener.
Sunday's race could feature another twist in the ongoing rift between the two former champions, who as of late Friday had not spoken since their post-race altercation at Chicagoland where Harvick punched Johnson in the chest.
"Right now everybody is focused on us," Johnson said. "But who is to know after this weekend what conflict on track is going to be the next story?"
While settling a score with Johnson isn't out of the question for Harvick, a bigger threat to him advancing might be the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, who collectively have gone to Victory Lane in nine of the past 12 races, including each of the past three.
Coming into Sunday's race, JGR drivers Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Hamlin and Kyle Busch hold down the top four positions in the standings, respectively.
And after Edwards' pole-winning performance on Friday at NHMS, there appears to be no sign of a letdown from JGR, which placed all four cars in the top 10 in final practice.
"It's really amazing how this JGR group is working together," said Edwards after topping all other qualifiers with a lap of 137.980 mph. "... All the guys at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) -- we worked really hard this week and we're giving 100 percent for the Chase. It's a good way to start the race."
Kenseth, similarly, is thrilled with how stout the JGR Toyotas have been lately -- and he even sees room to get better.
"I feel like my team is real strong," said Kenseth, who owns four wins in 2015. "I think as an organization we're really strong right now. There's always improvements to be made. You can always be doing better. No matter how good or bad you're doing, you always look to improve. You always try to look over everything that's going on and try to figure out how to do that better.
"Certainly the last few months, the JGR Toyotas have been strong, so hopefully we can continue to improve and continue to keep getting better the next nine weeks and keep getting some results."
Logano, the best non-JGR driver since the Gibbs boys began piling up victories some three months ago, believes Team Penske is ready to put a stop to JGR's dominance, however.
"I feel like Team Penske is right where we need to be," he said. "I think we're really close. I think we're fighting with them every weekend for wins, so I don't think we have to take a step back and say, 'Oh my God, we're doing something wrong. They're just so much faster than us.'
"They're not faster than us. There are a lot of circumstances that obviously have to go just right to win these things just like anybody else does, and I feel like we have speed in our race cars. So we're not far off at all."
Will Sunday prove differently or will Logano's claim prove prophetic?