At NASCAR Chase Media Day, Drivers Claim To Feel No Pressure

On the eve of NASCAR's Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, you'd figure each of the 12 drivers in the Sprint Cup Series' playoff would be feeling immense pressure to win a championship.

Not so – at least if you ask them.

In fact, it was hard to get any of the drivers to fess up about feeling outside pressure during Chase Media Day on Thursday in downtown Chicago.

Aside from the pressure each one places on himself, the drivers would have us believe their individual Chase campaigns will be carefree walks in the park compared to their rivals.

Let's start with Jimmie Johnson, who has won the last five championships in a row. Is he under the most pressure of anyone?

"I don't think I am," Johnson said casually. "I have a streak to try to keep alive, but I thought there was a lot more pressure on me to win my first than there was the second, third, fourth, fifth. So I don't think it's me."

So if it's not Johnson, who is it?

"I would say Jimmie has the most pressure of anyone out there," Brad Keselowski said.

Wait a second. Johnson just said he doesn't have much pressure.

"I would say that, too, if I was him," Keselowski said.

Hmm. Can someone clear this up?

"I guess maybe Jimmie can be more relaxed than everybody else, because he's won the last five straight," Matt Kenseth said.

"I don't see how there can be any pressure (on Johnson)," Denny Hamlin said. "I think any championship from here on out is just a bonus for him."

There we go. It's conclusive: Johnson does not have the most pressure on him.

"If you had to say (the pressure is on) any one guy, you'd have to say Jimmie to repeat," Tony Stewart said.

Wait, say what?

"I think in a way, maybe Jimmie has the most pressure," Carl Edwards said. "Jimmie's known nothing but success for the last five years."

C'mon, guys! Johnson said he's not feeling the pressure, remember?

"Well, of course," Edwards said with a smile. "Everybody says we don't have pressure."

So who has the most pressure on them? Let's ask Johnson.

"I would think Carl, Kyle (Busch), Denny," Johnson said.

Is that true, Carl?

"Well, yeah," Edwards said. "That's what's gotten me where I am. I've always put a ton of pressure on myself."

Ah ha! Some progress. Do you agree, Kyle?

"He's naming the guys that he's expecting to knock him off and he's trying to put it on us," Busch said, shaking his head. "I don't have pressure."

You don't?

"If the points fall your way, they fall your way," Busch said calmly. "If you put too much pressure on yourself to think, 'OK, I have to win this week,' what good does that do you?"

Maybe Denny should weigh in on this.

"I'd say probably the favorites – probably Kyle and Jeff (Gordon) – go in with the most expectations," Hamlin said.

But what about you, Denny?

"We've got nothing to lose but go forward," he said.

These dudes aren't helping us get to the bottom of this mystery. Let's ask someone else.

"I don't know about pressure," Ryan Newman said. "I don't even think about pressure. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. is probably under the most pressure because of the critiquing of his fans and everybody else."

Your response, Dale?

"Well, I put pressure on myself," Earnhardt Jr. said. "But otherwise, I don't feel any pressure from the outside. I feel like a bit of an underdog."

Perhaps Kurt Busch can help us out. Are you feeling the most pressure, Kurt?

"I would say Kyle has the big target on him, with the laps he's led and just his sheer strength," the elder Busch said of his brother. "Everybody is expecting this could be his year."

No, sorry. Kyle already said it's not him. Let's ask Kevin Harvick.

"I think it's everybody," Harvick said with a sly grin. "Because there are just so many reasons somebody might be under pressure."

So if everybody is under pressure like Harvick claimed, are all these drivers lying about having "no pressure?"

"Yeah, absolutely," Harvick said, his smile getting even bigger.

At this point, Chase Media Day began to wind down and only one driver remained.

In walked Jeff Gordon, who took a seat at the table and was asked the question: "Which driver has the most pressure on him?"

"Uh, all 12?" he replied. "Everybody's got a tremendous amount of pressure."

But no one has been admitting it all day! Keselowski said "I don't feel any." Stewart said "We're the underdog."

Will you admit to feeling pressure, Jeff?

"I'm under pressure!" he said. "Hell yeah, I'm under pressure! Because we plan on stepping it up and getting it, going after it. And if you don't feel pressure in these next 10 weeks, then you're not going to be a threat for the championship."

I don't know about you, but my head hurts. Let's just race.

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