Although the deficit could be worse, Harvick and Logano will have little margin of error if either wants to advance past the quarterfinal round.
A year ago, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick left Charlotte Motor Speedway having finished first and second, respectively, their positions in the Chase for the Sprint Cup seemingly well secured.
Twelve months later, Logano and Harvick left Sunday's Bank of America 500 with decidedly less playoff security. Logano finished 36th and Harvick 38th in the first of three Round 2 races.
Logano's bid for a second straight victory came undone after separate failures of the right and left front tires. Each incident sent the No. 22 car into the wall, the second time incurring enough damage that the Team Penske driver had to head to the garage for extensive repairs. He was uncertain what caused the initial failure, but suspected it caused the second one.
"Once you hit the wall once, it kind of throws the front-end geometry out of line and that's probably what screwed up the second one," Logano said. "Who knows? I know it hurts a lot when you hit the wall that hard, but I'm glad I'm alright."
Harvick was solidly in the top 10 when his car suddenly slowed due to a lack of power on Lap 154. Initially, it appeared an electrical problem had befallen the No. 4 car, but later it was diagnosed as an issue with the oil line.
Unlike Logano, who returned to the track, Harvick's problem proved terminal.
"Lots of things can go wrong and today they did," Harvick said.
Logano is six points behind Denny Hamlin for the final transfer position, Harvick eight. That the deficit isn't greater for either is because of a multi-car accident that involved several Chasers, including Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Busch, and Hamlin suffered a blown engine with 26 laps to go.
The position Harvick now finds himself is familiar. He'll need either a win or successive good finishes the next two races, Oct. 16 at Kansas Speedway and Oct. 23 at Talladega Superspeedway, to avoid elimination from NASCAR's playoffs.
But if there is a driver who's shown capable of rising to the challenge in the Chase, it's Harvick. Three times since 2014, he's come through in must-win situations and has often said he is likes the intensity the knockout playoff format requires of its participants.
Nor should Logano be counted out either. He swept all three Round 2 races last year, and is the two-time defending winner of the fall Kansas event. And thanks to Hamlin's misfortune, Logano's path to the semifinal round is less rigorous than before.
"We're not out. We're not gonna die," Logano said. "This team is resilient. We've proved it before and we'll just have to go out and prove it again. We just have to have two flawless races. It's something we can make up."