FORT WORTH, Texas -- Who is right?
There is a theory that with the top three contenders in this season's Chase for Sprint Cup separated by just 38 points, the final three races will be an all-or-nothing, whoever-is-best wins affair.
There is also a theory that with the top three title contenders separated by only 38 points, a more conservative approach is necessary because any mistake with such a close margin will be magnified and detrimental.
Both theories will get a good test in Sunday's AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway as none of the title contenders qualified particularly well.
Reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson starts 17th, Denny Hamlin 30th and Kevin Harvick 26th. Elliott Sadler starts from the pole.
So, all three Chase contenders will have to use some strategy to make their way through the field.
"We all have different strategies and what works for each team and driver. The 'what-ifs' are always in the mind and they find their way in especially when you're just about to fall asleep and they find you when you just wake up," said Johnson, who has won the past four Cup championships.
"Over the years and through experience, I've found ways to deal with those thoughts.I'm at a standpoint of just thinking offense and myself and this team, we're trained to go out and perform."
All of the three drivers have shown the ability to win races and run up front this season and all three have solid resumes at the three tracks remaining on the schedule Texas, Phoenix and Homestead, Fla.
If they all have similar strategies planned and all have performed similarly well, that leaves intangibles as the X factor.
Johnson said part of the experience of contending for titles year after year is learning to deal with pressure situations.
"Those thoughts are there and you need to learn how to deal with those emotions and understand how that pressure makes you respond and act," he said. "Again with the last four years and how they've turned out, I have a lot of confidence in those areas."
Hamlin's confident approach to the final three races is rooted is his belief that having not won a title before, he has little to lose.
"What do I have to lose? Go back to third in points?Third, second it's no difference," Hamlin said. "We have an opportunity to move up one position and at the worst, we feel like is possibly lose one position in the points.
"The risk is way smaller than the reward that's out there. For me, I'm really not worried about making a mistake. I'm just worried about if we're going to be fast enough to win a championship."
It was Harvick who mentioned the prospect of mistakes having the potential of deciding this championship in his remarks last Sunday at Talladega, Ala.
"It may not even be a visible mistake; it may just be a mistake where you have a 15th place day and that's just not going to be good enough," Harvick said.
"So, I don't know that it's going to be a visible mistake like an accident or something big."
Regardless, Harvick is relishing this opportunity.
"This is what you want. You want to be in contention and whether we win or lose, this is what we set out at the beginning of the year to do," he said.
"And I think it's important to work as hard as you can and I think everybody alongside of me is working as hard as they can and we're going to do everything we can to try to win.
"Whether it's good enough? I don't know. But this is fun. This really is fun."