Context can be a decisive factor in how we, or the actual competitors, view the results of a singular sporting event. The case of Carl Edwards' 2011 Chase season serves as a stark reminder of that notion.
During the third race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Dover, Edwards piloted what was by far the fastest car on the track. He entered a pit stop in the top five well into the race and was charged with a speeding penalty with 150 of 400 laps remaining.
That unforced error dropped him back 20 places and as far back as 27th. Because of his skill and the car his team had engineered, he was able to fight his way back to a third-place finish.
After the conclusion of the race, he thoroughly apologized to his team and owner.
The very next week at Kansas, Edwards fought a bad car all day long, despite qualifying second. From the outset of that race he looked weak. He almost caused a caution on lap one, nearly swerving into his Roush Fenway Racing teammate and pole sitter, Greg Biffle.
Somehow he battled back and gained a fifth-place finish. He reacted quite differently than his performance at Dover: he thought that his team should celebrate as if it won and drink champagne.
At day's end, he was in first place in the standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
With six races to go, he now must defend his meager one-point lead until the end of November to gain his first championship.
Here is how he can do it: the theme words are "avoid" and "repeat."