The 2011 NASCAR Chase has played out much differently for title contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
While Edwards has taken the consistent approach during the first nine races, he has held onto the points lead without a victory in the Chase. Stewart, on the other hand, has four wins in the Chase and still trails.
Despite criticism from some, both Edwards and Stewart complimented the new system put in place at the beginning of the season.
"The point system is good," Stewart said. "It's easy to look at that and say it's not good because of that fact, but what you have to understand is that unlike other sports where it's two teams against each other, it's 43 teams and it's a 10-race Chase, and you accumulate points for 10 weeks."
With an average finish of 5.2 so far in the Chase, Edwards pointed out his team has not been trying to "cruise along."
"We've done our best," Edwards said. "We've performed very well, even on the days when it didn't stack up in our favor, we had some pretty big hills to climb."
Some have been critical of the new system, arguing Edwards' consistent approach is proof there is not enough emphasis on winning. Stewart, however, disagrees.
"The fact we won four races doesn't mean we should be ahead of Carl," he said. "We did not do our job in some of the other races that got us behind. But because of the point system and the bonus points for winning we were able to catch up and gain those points back."
Regardless of the criticism, this year's championship battle is the closest in Chase history and one that will be long-remembered. Is the new point system to thank for that? Or just good racing?
"Whatever point system we've got, over time you're going to have close battles, you'll have some that aren't so close, and I think all of us are just fortunate that it's close this year and it's exciting," Edwards said.