One would think that with only two races to go before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase begins, most of the 12 spots in the stock car playoffs would be wrapped up.
As it turns out, the race to get into the Chase is still a pretty good one, with only two drivers mathematically guaranteed spots.
The men who can sit back and relax (as much as anyone can relax at 200 miles per hour) during the next two events at Atlanta and Richmond, respectively, are Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon.
Harvick, of course, has maintained the top spot since the infant stages of the season and is showing no signs of relinquishing his perch. In a bit of bravado prior to the Daytona 500 Harvick said defending four-time champion Jimmie Johnson had reason to worry about what the 29 car was capable of doing over the course of 36 races.
He was right.
The man who replaced the late Dale Earnhardt in the Richard Childress Racing stable has wins to go with consistency, which is the perfect recipe for a title.
For Gordon -- also a four-time champ but one who hasn't hoisted the Cup since 2001, consistency has trumped all else. The pilot of the Rainbow Warrior ride for Hendrick Motorsports hasn't visited victory lane since he won at Texas in 2009, but that hasn't kept him from making a strong run at the crown in 2010.
There was a time before the Chase when finishing well week after week gave you a better shot at taking the championship than multiple wins, and Gordon is showing that approach can still work.
As for the rest of the solid bets, Kyle Busch sets the pace. He can earn a spot in the Chase with virtually any kind of effort at all at Atlanta. In fact, if he finishes 40th and never leads a lap, he's in.
Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin can also secure a berth in the field this coming weekend, needing only top 20 finishes.
Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth are all within striking distance, and have a good shot and wrapping up a spot on Sunday.
Johnson, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle can play their way into the field in Atlanta, but might not seal the deal until Richmond.
Of course once the Chase lineup is established points are redistributed, and that's when winning really counts.
Although Johnson and Hamlin still have more work to do to make the Chase, if they do they'll be the top two seeds with five checkers apiece, giving them 5,050 points to start the 10 race "postseason."
Johnson has always seemed to be able to work his magic once the countdown to the points title begins, and it would be silly to dismiss his chances in 2010.
However, it appears the gap is closing among those determined to wrestle his crown away.
He hasn't so much dropped back in the pack as the pack has caught up with him.
Hopefully, that kind of competition will play out in dramatic fashion as the 10 races to the finish start counting down to Homestead.