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NASCAR Sprint Cup: Can Carl Edwards Handle the Pressures of the Chase?

DOVER, DE - OCTOBER 02:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, looks on from the grid during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 2, 2011 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Luke KrmpotichContributor IIOctober 6, 2011

Carl Edwards is one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR at the moment. He's tied with Kevin Harvick for the championship lead, with seven races remaining in the season, and is the only driver with top-10 finishes in each of the first three races in the Chase.

If not for a pit-road speeding penalty last week at Dover, Edwards likely would have won the race. Instead, he had to settle for a solid but bittersweet third-place finish.

On Wednesday, Edwards spoke with members of the media about a variety of topics, including how his approach to the Chase today is different from 2008, when his title bid came up just short to eventual champion Jimmie Johnson. According to Edwards, his outlook has changed significantly since that experience. In the NASCAR teleconference from open testing at Phoenix International Raceway, Carl told media members:

"I think I'm different a number of ways. But I've learned a bunch. I feel that you learn the most through your failures, not through your successes. We definitely were not able to close the deal in 2008. We went through a very tough time in 2009. Through all of that I think we learned how strong we can be.

"The thing I'm most proud of is we didn't collapse. Our team, we didn't start firing people, pointing fingers. Roush Fenway Racing buckled down, worked harder, worked smarter. We came back and were able to win the last two races last season, lead the points for most of the season. I feel we're a threat at every racetrack we go to.

"How that applies to me personally, I have more true confidence and a little more calm approach to this whole championship. Nothing will surprise me. If we go out and we're able to win it, I won't be surprised by that. If something crazy happens and we aren't able to win it, that won't surprise me either. I've been there and done that, too."

Edwards acknowledged that his near-win at Dover was a difficult pill to swallow, especially given that he lost his chance to win with a self-inflicted mistake on pit road. But he said he's learned to take the positives from difficult experiences and move forward, prepared to not make the same mistake again.

"I sure thought about [the loss at Dover] a lot. Jack called me the next day on Monday. I thought, Oh, boy, this is going to be an ugly conversation. It was pretty cool. He said, After the race, I was mad just like you were. I said, I know. He said he thought about it. He was really nice. He told me he was proud of how our team came back and how we dealt with it. That meant a lot.

"Looking back on it, I thought about it a little bit more. I think everything happens for a reason. That was a really, really good lesson. That mistake made me think a lot, elicited a big emotional response from me. Hopefully that will keep me from making it again. That's good. As I look back on it, I'm okay with it. Wish I would have won the race, but I think it was a lesson worth having."

DOVER, DE - OCTOBER 02:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 2, 2011 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Finally, Edwards elaborated on how he feels better equipped to handle the pressure of the Chase than in the past, but admitted that he won't know for sure how he'll respond until the racing gets down to the wire:

"As far as the pressure's concerned, I feel a little different about the Chase this time than I did in 2008. I think I'm a little more at ease with the whole situation. I feel like I'm excited at the opportunity to go race every week, not really nervous. I feel like if we do our job right, run the way we should, we should have a chance to compete for it. In a sense, I'm just having more fun competing than I did in 2008. I'm just enjoying the competition. That's neat.

"We're only three races in. If we're eight or nine races in, who knows what will happen. Right now I'm just enjoying it."

Luke Krmpotich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

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