Pressure is an extraordinary thing. Some thrive when high expectations are placed upon their shoulders, while others crumble under the weight of having to produce at a level higher than they are capable of performing.
Entering the 2013 NASCAR season, here are the 10 drivers, crew chiefs and teams who are feeling the most pressure to perform:
1) Carl Edwards
With a big money contract in his back pocket, Carl Edwards was supposed to be the face of Ford when he re-upped with Roush Fenway Racing in the summer of 2011. But in the first year of his new deal, Edwards fell flat and turned in the worst season of his career. Now with a new crew chief and immersed in a 69-race winless streak, Edwards is hard-pressed to show that Roush didn't err by re-signing him and not Matt Kenseth.
2) Steve Addington
The Cup level is a "What have you done for me lately?" sport. This mindset explains why even though he led Tony Stewart to three victories and a Chase berth, there were whispers that Steve Addington's job was in jeopardy. If the 14 team's late season swoon carries over to 2013, Addington might find himself updating his résumé.
3) Steve Letarte
When you're guiding the team of the most popular driver in the sport, part of the job description entails that your decisions will be scrutinized like no other in the garage. And while Letarte has worked wonders with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who do you think would get the bulk of the blame if the 88 team were to regress? Here's a hint: It won't be the driver.
4) Ryan Newman
Working on a one-year contract, Ryan Newman's future at Stewart-Haas Racing is tied to whether the team can find additional sponsorship for the former Daytona 500 winner. This equates to Newman being in a must-win situation this season, because if he doesn't, SHR could be forced to part with him to make room for Kevin Harvick's arrival in 2014.
5) Jeff Burton
Like Newman above, Burton is a free agent after the season and staring at an uncertain future. Unlike Newman, the veteran hasn't won a Cup race in over four seasons. And at the age of 45, opportunities to land a top-flight ride are getting scarce, unless he can prove he's still capable of finding Victory Lane.
6) Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya and Chip Ganassi have as strong a relationship as any driver/owner in the garage. But that bond will be tested unless Montoya starts producing results. The No. 42 team has underachieved more often than not. And if Montoya can't give Earnhardt Ganassi Racing more consistency, the team will have no shortage of options if it decides to bring in a replacement.
7) Michael Waltrip Racing
Last season, the pressure for Michael Waltrip Racing was because the organization had yet to fulfill its promise. Well, mission accomplished thanks to three victories and two cars in the Chase. Now, the challenge comes in the form of proving that 2012 wasn't a fluke and that this team is more than just a one year wonder.
8) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
All Matt Kenseth did during his tenure at Roush Fenway Racing was win one title, two Daytona 500s, 24 Cup races in total and qualify for the Chase eight of nine years. Those are the rather large shoes Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be attempting to fill. Good luck with that.
9) Dave Rogers
When you're working with a talent like Kyle Busch and have the resources of Joe Gibbs Racing behind you, winning a single race and not making the Chase isn't going to cut it. And while a majority of last year's disappointing season can be attributed to bad luck and faulty engines, odds favor Dave Rogers being the fall guy if the No. 18 continues to underperform.
10) Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Chip Ganassi has been pretty patient thus far as his NASCAR team has lagged through consecutive seasons that can best be described as dreadful. But how much longer can he continue to sit idly by and not make dramatic changes at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing? There seems to be a feeling that this team needs to win -- or at the very least finish in the top five, something it didn't do in 2012 -- otherwise a complete overhaul will be forthcoming.