Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 4/27/12

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 19: Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 AFLAC Ford looks on, during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 18, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
With the recent complaints by some that NASCAR races are boring, will Richmond International Raceway offer the action on Saturday that fans have come to know and love? That depends. Certainly, this 0.75-mile track encourages side-by-side action in tight confines, which has the tendency to trigger cautions, and that hasn't been the case at the circuit's past two stops -- Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson believes the characteristics of each individual track determine the level of excitement that fans experience. However, Johnson concedes that the common templates have resulted in close competition among the teams. "I think the venues play a larger part in the excitement, the action, and even the cautions," Johnson said. "We can look at the old Bristol (Speedway) and put that down there. That created cautions. Right now, the sport is as competitive as it's ever been. I'm not sure it translates that way or the way that some want it to. But the entire field, when you watch qualifying, it's so tight. The racing, the reason we can't pass more often, is we're all virtually running the same speed. You have to be a half-second faster to pass someone, or three-tenths, at least. And when you're a tenth or two off of the leaders, from first to 20th, you can't pass. So I understand why we're here." With all things being equal, can a driver make a difference on the racetrack? Ultimately, that depends on each team's strategy. With one-third of the regular-season races in the books, are drivers challenging for wins or simply racing for points? After the first eight races of the season, it would appear that only two drivers are locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, who have each won two races and don't appear to be in jeopardy of dropping out of the top 20 in the points standings, a combination that would keep them in the wild-card spots. But what about the other 25 or so hopefuls who still have a fighting chance for postseason spot? "We are ninth in points and don't have a win," Carl Edwards said. "It is not like we are tied for first right now. We have to be very cautious with our points. Let's say we know some things. Let's assume some things that are true. Right now we don't have the fastest car on the racetrack every week, so we can say, 'All right for the next 16 or 18 races we might still not have the fastest car.' Under the old points system we would say, 'Damn, we are already ninth and not running that great, let's just go for it here. Let's do some crazy stuff and get a win or two and have some fun.' "But we can't do that now because we say that we have to make it into the top 10. We cannot give up any points. What we are banking on, what we hope comes is that we hope in those last 10 races that we are good enough then to go shoot for the championship." Edwards certainly seemed comfortable through the first 26 races of last season when he never slipped lower than 12th in the points standings -- and that was after the second race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway. It makes one wonder how cautious Edwards was during the first 26 races. For Edwards, a win would have made the difference between second place and the championship last year. Yet the current 61-point gap between Edwards and points leader and teammate Greg Biffle appears to have made Edwards and others even more apprehensive on the racetrack. "If you were in my position you would never be able to forgive yourself if you were ninth in points here in Richmond and they drop the green flag on the last restart here and you have a great race car and you go for some banzai run and wreck the thing and don't make the Chase," Edwards said. "Let's say those last 10 races we have a hell of a run and would have won the thing if we would have made it. "I would be a moron to give it up right here at Richmond. I don't know if that is right or wrong, but that is why it ends up this way because guys start to think, 'OKy, just gather all your troops here, focus, work everything out, make the Chase and then go get 'em.' That wasn't intended by NASCAR I am sure, but that is the way we feel." Martin Truex Jr.'s strategy is much different. Truex has yet to enjoy a level of success similar to Edwards'. Sure, Edwards is experiencing a 41-race winless drought, but for Truex, that number has escalated to 175 -- more than any other driver inside the top 25. Certainly, Truex's second-place position in the points standings offers him more luxury to take chances. But at this juncture in his career, even in a contract year for both the driver and sponsor, Truex is more interested in bringing home a win. "I feel like the Chase is very, very important," Truex said. "It's a big step. It's a big deal. MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) has never put a car in the Chase yet. It's a big goal of ours -- it has been for the past three seasons, so that would be a huge accomplishment for us as a team. For me personally, I feel like a win is more important. I've been in position to win numerous times. Crazy things have happened here and there. Last week (at Kansas) just didn't work out for us. "So, for me, having those days where I felt like I had the car to beat, I was the best driver out there that didn't get the win -- for me getting back to Victory Lane is going to put all those feelings and emotions in check that I had from all those days of them heartbreaking races. So, I just want to get the win out of the way. But I think for the team, making the Chase is a big deal and if you just get in it you have a shot at winning the championship -- and that's really what we're all here for."
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