Richmond, Va. Jimmie Johnson has momentum on his side and history in sight.
Nevermind that Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards dominated the regular season; the Chase is Johnson's time of the year, and the two-time defending NASCAR champion isn't turning his title over without a fight.
He won Sunday at Richmond International Raceway to grab his second consecutive victory, fourth overall this season, to take a big boost into the Chase for the championship. Johnson is trying to become the first driver to win three straight titles since Cale Yarborough (1976-78).
"I do think about it," admitted Johnson, "but the less I think about it, the better I'm going to be. The less I can think about all this stuff the last 10 races, the better I am going to be. I just need to fall back to the confidence I have in my race team and my abilities.
"If you show up and you're swinging for the fences every time, you're going to make mistakes."
Johnson hasn't of late, chasing down Busch and Edwards arguably to claim the role of championship favorite.
Busch, winner of eight Cup races this season, is the top seed in the Chase. Edwards is second based on his six victories, and Johnson is third. They are the only three drivers in the field with multiple wins, and five of the contenders start the Chase winless on the season.
Edwards, however, believes all 12 drivers will have a shot at the title when the 10-race Chase begins Sunday in New Hampshire.
"Anything can happen," Edwards said. "I think it's going to be defined by your bad days."