Three races left in the 2010 Sprint Cup Series season.
Three drivers left in the running to be named series champion.
Kevin Harvick took a big step to closing the gap on points leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place Denny Hamlin with his second-place finish on Sunday at Talladega, Ala.
Hamlin trails Johnson by 14 points, and Harvick trails Johnson by 38 points.
The 38-point difference among the top three drivers is the closest margin with three races remaining since the Chase format was adapted in 2004.
While Hamlin has certainly stayed close with Johnson, it's Harvick who has taken the most recent and biggest step toward dethroning Johnson, who has won the past four Cup championships. Harvick and Hamlin are looking for their first series title.
Following his second-place run at Talladega, Harvick answered several questions about what lies ahead for him, Johnson and Hamlin over the final three races.
You, Jimmie and Denny are right on top of each other. How do you see this thing playing out?
Harvick: I really think it's one of the three guys is going to finish in the top five overall over the last three races. If you're not able to do that and be in contention to lead laps, you're probably not going to win the championship. You can't be conservative. You can't go there hoping for a top 10 because, as you've seen over the past few years, top fives, leading the laps is what it's going to take over the next three weeks. I just believe it's one of three cars that is going to do that and hopefully we can keep pace.
How do you feel about giving yourself that opportunity?
We've ran well at all the last three tracks. Hopefully we can continue that progress as we go over the next three week.
Denny said he believes one of you three is going to have to win a race or two in these last three. Do you agree with that?
I mean, for me it's all about not making a mistake. I think if you make a mistake, obviously there's three guys, of those three everybody's not going to make a mistake. You're going to have to run in the top five and have a chance to win, in my opinion. Forcing it usually leads to mistakes. So if it happens, it happens.
Three great teams. Any one guy have an advantage?
I mean, we've gone through seven races, and you can throw a blanket over the three of us. It's really going to just come down to dotting the I's, crossing the T's, keeping that performance level where it needs to be. If you go to one of those three tracks, if it's your off week, you're in trouble.
Kevin, when it comes to you and Denny, no offense to Jimmie, but he's won four in a row, there seems to be at least some fans who are going, 'Somebody get up there and beat this guy.'
You know, when these guys have done what they've done over the last four years, the Chase started, they're right back on track, it was important for the two of us as teams, speaking of the 29 and (Hamlin), to go out and knock those top fives off and not make any mistakes. When you go back and look at the stats over the last four years, top 10s do not cut it.
You got to be in the top five and being up front every week. It's the same pace that he's had this year, it's just the two of us have done a lot of the same things. You know, it's important to continue to do that over the next three weeks.