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NASCAR At Richmond: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Theory On Quiet Start To 2012 Season

Just because Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a comfortable cushion back to 11th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion doesn't mean he's going to start taking more chances.

Why? Because he's already racing as hard as he can, the driver said Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

"There ain't a lap that I've ran to this point this year that wasn't ran as hard as it could have been ran," he said. "... I think everybody runs as hard as they can. Everybody is as aggressive as they want to be. I don't think we're all out there being overly nice about it. Everybody is running pretty hard and pretty aggressive for positions."

So why has NASCAR seemed so quiet lately? Earnhardt Jr. said the lack of recent cautions and rivalries is "just the way the racing is right now," in which it's more important for drivers to points race than to go run into a competitor out of anger.

"I still feel like it's pretty early in the season," he said. "Everybody is just trying to get as many points as they can get, trying to make the Chase. If you go out there running over each other and damaging your car, you could cost yourself 10 points here and 10 points there, and you could lose the opportunity to make the Chase pretty quickly.

"So you have to pretty smart when you're driving your car."

Earnhardt Jr. also said his comment last week about believing he's the best driver on Hendrick Motorsports' team was something every driver thinks.

"All the drivers in the garage feel like they're the best, individually," he said. "And they should. That's kind of the way you have to approach it. I learned a long time ago that if you don't have confidence in your car...your crew chief and yourself, it's just not conducive to being successful. You have to feel like you're the best."