It's an intangible we refer to as "knowing how to win."
It's difficult to describe, but it enters most competitors' minds, particularly late in a race.
Not knowing how to win seems most prevalent in the minds of competitors who have gone extended periods without capturing a checkered flag.
Kyle Busch knows how to win, how to close the deal. He's had that ability most of his career.
Chase Elliott does not ... yet. But I promise you it's coming, as soon as this weekend.
Among the most self-deprecating drivers our sport has seen, Chase made no excuses after Sunday's race in Dover. He may have even suggested he gave one away, and I agree. Only, of course, on the premise that I've given a few away myself.
Most athletes have to experience the effects of losing one before they can prepare themselves mentally to win one. I believe it exists for competitors in all kinds of sports.
A primary reason young drivers aspire to be Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers is the allure of knowing you are competing against the very best. That realization is most evident in the closing laps of what could be your first career win.
This is the most competitive top level of motorsports on the planet, and while making the Cup level as a driver is a monumental accomplishment, reaching the pinnacle of NASCAR without winning can be haunting.
What I just described is what it can feel like Monday through Thursday for a driver suffering from the agony of feeling as though you let one slip away.
Bill, Cup champion and Hall of Fame driver, recorded eight second-place finishes before breaking into Victory Lane.
The similarities between father and son are striking, and not just statistically.
I've never competed against Chase, but I watched him very closely. I admire how well he handles a race car and how little he takes from other competitors he competes against, like Mark Martin did or Terry Labonte.
Mostly he reminds me of his dad, who drove with the precision of a surgeon, demonstrating a sixth sense of exactly where his car needed to be all around the racetrack and an ability to place it there.
Bill is among the greatest I ever competed against. I feel certain Chase is destined for similar success.
Take a moment and compare Chase's results to those of Joey Logano in his first two years of Cup racing.
Logano fought a headwind, which eventually led to his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Following that departure, many had given up on Logano being one of the next great talents. Boy, what a mistake that was, and what a value it was for his next team owner, Roger Penske.
Elliott won't be leaving Hendrick Motorsports for many, many years.
He may have a new crew chief, a new car chief, etc., but he'll be driving for Rick Hendrick for a long time, because Hendrick knows what he has in Elliott, and he knows that kind of talent is very difficult to replicate.
What Hendrick may not know is how you settle down a young driver with loads of talent who may be guilty of overthinking the situation.
You see, winning that first Cup race is the most important task for any driver, otherwise they wouldn't talk so much about it.
Winning that first race validates you among your peers as legitimate and capable.
It rewards you in a way that nothing else can in the competitive circles of driving a race car.
The psychological value of winning is so enormously beneficial that I don't think it can be reasonably dissected or described.
But I can tell you firsthand how important it is, because it took me 174 races to get my first. Getting close to winning fuels the fire, but if it is allowed to go on for too long, it has a reverse effect and begins to suffocate you when it matters most.
Realistically, Elliott is nowhere near experiencing the kind of pressure that would prevent him from winning. He's had too much success at too early an age to allow doubt to creep into his mind.
But it does, and that's why the expression "you're only as good as your last race" exists.
Drivers can be their own worst enemy, but the great ones find a way to power through it. They find the mental toughness to finish the job.
And that is exactly what Kyle Busch did last Sunday in Dover by powering his way to a win that he otherwise didn't seem destined for.
Busch is more than a great driver. Since fracturing bones in both legs at Daytona at the beginning of 2015, he has demonstrated the mental toughness to overcome all and become Cup champion.
Elliott didn't fracture bones Sunday, but he absolutely felt pain. It's the type of pain associated with being your own harshest critic.
There's no immunity to the effects of losing, no matter how much success you have. Losing always hurts.
So why is that first one so difficult?
Because wanting to win, if it exists for too long, becomes needing to win.
Needing to win builds self-imposed pressure that manifests itself into distractions, which lead to mistakes.
Chase became too conservative in the last five laps of Sunday's race at Dover, and that's not me being critical of him, it's me being an analyst.
In football, they call it prevent defense, which often causes players to alter their approach and intensity, to relax and sometimes give up big plays and the lead.
Driving in the closing laps of a race while leading can have a similar effect.
You leave a little extra distance between the right side of your car and the wall on the corner exit; you turn away from the wall early on the corner entry, and because of that you consequently give up the very middle of the corner and lose two- or three-tenths of a second.
The difficult thing for a driver to do, particularly a young driver who has never won, is to push the limits as hard in the final five laps as in the five laps that got you the lead. Trust me when I tell you it's easier said than done.
I know how it feels to win, and I know what's required to win, but I also have vivid memories of losses and failures. Most of my losses I was responsible for.
Taking ownership of a loss is perhaps more important than anything you do as a driver, because while most people think it's critical to understand why you won a race, it's more critical to understand why you lost. Unless you understand it, and adjust for it, it's likely to happen again.
Elliott will be in the same position again that he was in during the closing laps at Dover, maybe soon, and perhaps even this weekend at Charlotte.
I believe he has a complete understanding of why he didn't succeed at Dover, and he'll carry that with him into those final few laps and into those final few corners, and he'll carry that experience -- that knowledge -- all the way to Victory Lane.