The drivers left standing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase will leave it all on the track in the desert Sunday.
The Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway is the final chopping block in the Round of 8 before the championship race. There, the drivers left in contention will get halved to four, with Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards already sitting on automatic bids.
At a track Kevin Harvick typically dominates, sleepers outside of the Chase and some of NASCAR's biggest names on the outside looking in will throw everything they have at stealing a checkered flag.
Arguably the wildest event of the year, it's a must-see for those who have watched all season and those just catching up to see a champion crowned.
Where: Phoenix International Raceway
When: Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Live stream: NBC Sports
Sprint Cup Standings
|9||Martin Truex Jr.||2,265||4|
NASCAR at Phoenix Lineup
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|78||Martin Truex Jr.|
Drivers to Watch
Remember Matt Kenseth?
The guy who was right there in wins (four) with Kyle Busch and Johnson last year entering the Chase and hit this year's playoff with only two wins, with the most recent coming in July.
Still, Kenseth hit solid form once September rolled around, running up seven top-10 finishes over his past eight outings to sit fourth ahead of Saturday's race.
But now he has a problem: There are three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers left vying for a Chase spot, and Kenseth did himself a disservice last time out in Texas, finishing seventh in a rain-shortened event.
Even so, he's approaching Phoenix like any other race, as he told FoxSports.com's Joe Menzer.
"I would love to have won last week, I would love to win this week and I’d love to win every week," Kenseth said. "It doesn’t really change. You go there and run as hard as you can. But if you’re running seventh, there’s nothing you can do to miraculously win."
With everything at stake, the dynamics of the JGR teammates and Kenseth's recent consistency will make for one of the most interesting storylines in Phoenix.
Given his four wins on the season and miraculous title chase after an injury last year, one could suggest Busch has been relatively quiet as of late.
Quiet as in back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Round of 8.
Nice, but that doesn't give Busch much in the way of security with such a small number of drivers left standing. These normally praiseworthy finishes only have him third in the standings going into Phoenix.
On the other end of the spectrum, all Busch has to do is keep moving at his usual pace. He'll fight for another title soon.
"We've had all the finishes that we need thus far," Busch said, according to NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce. "We just have to be able to go out there one more week and be able to get another one."
Busch has finished in the top five six times over his last eight outings. If he does so again, it's off to the final round looking for a championship. If the superb consistency fades, revisionist history sets in and fans can go back and point out where Busch could have done better by securing automatic bids with checkered flags.
Either way, how Busch swings the evenly loaded scale is worth watching.
For most, the biggest story about Sunday is the expected Harvick dominance.
He might as well own the track in Phoenix. Not only has he won this race three of the past four years, but he's also won at the track in five of his last six visits.
Sounds great, but keep in mind Harvick sits sixth in the standings. It's easy to wave off this rather scary position because of his past dominance. As Harvick himself admitted to Bruce's colleague Zack Albert, the advantage in the desert could go the way of a mirage at any time:
I feel like that can be gone at any point. That's the hardest thing about having success. You have to have an open mind to try new things to keep moving forward. If you don't have an open mind or are not willing to try a fresh approach, then it will get stagnant. You're going to become stale and get left behind.
Harvick doesn't have much of a choice but to approach the race like this. He put himself at a disadvantage during the first race of this round, struggling to a finish of 20th in Martinsville in Virginia. He recovered with a sixth-place showing in Texas last time out, but that was a regression on his starting position of third.
With many seemingly guaranteed things going the other direction as of late (mainly 3-1 leads in the sporting world), the last thing Harvick can do is assume he's going to put on another show at one of his best tracks.
Call it yet another factor making this the most interesting race of the season.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.