One of the best things Carl Edwards does, besides drive fast, is relax under pressure.
It's a handy trait for him when he's leading the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, as he is heading into today's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. And when he's put on the spot answering questions about his lead.
Like, "What would it mean to see your name after Jimmie Johnson's five in a row on the trophy?"
Edwards pauses only for a second.
"To be honest with you, that's not important to me," he says and pauses to think.
Then he relaxes.
"It would be nice to have my name six times in a row right after his five in a row," he says, drawing laughs at a news conference. "That would be the great thing."
Edwards is cool and confident. The championship is in front of him as he gets ready for today's race. But he's not going to assume anything.
"I don't count Jimmie out of this thing," he said. "I've seen those guys do amazing things, and I've seen a lot of people falter this season. So anything can happen."
Anything can happen, but what's likely to happen is Edwards or Tony Stewart -- or perhaps Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski -- is going to end Johnson's five-year reign as Sprint Cup champion.
Edwards holds an eight-point lead over Stewart going into the season's final three races. Harvick is 21 behind, and Keselowski is 27 back.
It's a tight competition, and Edwards has been part of tight competitions before.
In 2005, he finished third in the championship standings in a four-win season. In 2008, he was second despite a series-high nine wins.
Those experiences help him as he approaches what would be his first Sprint Cup championship.
"In 2005, we were leading the race at Homestead," he said. "I think I almost put Tony a lap down to win that championship, and it didn't work out. He ended up winning, and we ended up tied for second. That was my first shot at a championship. Right then, I thought, 'Aw, that's no big deal. We'll win it next year.' That was obviously pretty naive.
"Then, in 2008, we were very, very fast and really good at every racetrack. I learned a lot of lessons through losing that one, making a mistake and having a part failure. But the biggest thing I learned is that at the end of the day, what I do and how I value my performance and my abilities as a race car driver is how I perform."
As the points leader, Edwards is under more pressure to hold on to the lead and win the championship.
Stewart, Harvick and Keselowski can afford to drive as the hunters.
Stewart put pressure on Edwards after last week's race at Martinsville, when he said Edwards better be worried for the final three races.
"The feeling hasn't changed. It wasn't the adrenaline saying that," Stewart said.
Edwards doesn't have to be told Stewart is behind him. He doesn't have to be told Stewart is talking. The pressure is there for Edwards to feel if he wants to.
But he relaxes.
He thinks big picture.
"If I go out and perform the way I can and everything works out, great," Edwards said. "If I go out and perform the way I can and I don't win the championship, well, that's great, too. That's all I can do. Win, lose or draw, I'll be back here next year, the year after that, and the year after that. We're going to be tough for a long time, so what I'm doing is trying not to let myself think about this particular championship."
One more question comes his way: "Are you sleeping well?"
Edwards relaxes. He smiles and says, "Yeah. I've got two kids at home, so a little extra noise is not going to keep me up any longer."