CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carl Edwards said NASCAR is taking the wrong approach in its effort to draw more fans to the track.

If NASCAR really wants to create better competition and higher interest in the sport, Edwards said it needs to focus on changing the setup of the cars and not the championship format.

NASCAR will announce its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format Thursday. It is expected to feature a 16-driver field whittled through eliminations to four drivers and a winner-take-all season finale; it would be the fourth significant change to the points or championship format since the Chase debuted in 2004.

Edwards said drivers are already doing everything they can to win and the proposed changes that the NASCAR chairman, Brian France, laid out two weeks ago won’t change that.

“I don’t think you can take the top 15 guys in this sport and make them race any harder for wins. I don’t think you can,” Edwards said.

It’s a sentiment shared by the 2012 champion, Brad Keselowski, who initially showed public support of the new format but is now reserving judgment until he sees what NASCAR wants to do.

France has been adamant he wants drivers to race at 100 percent at all times and to value winning, and he preached most of last season that the frantic, door-banging battle to the checkered flag at California between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano is the kind of racing he wants to see.

“From a driver’s perspective, there’s nothing left,” Keselowski said “There’s no set of rules to make me race harder than I do.”

Keselowski passed on a chance to move Kyle Busch out of the lead at Watkins Glen last August in what could have been a last-ditch effort to win the race. That victory would have likely ensured Keselowski a spot in the Chase; instead he failed to qualify and was unable to defend his championship.

Keselowski also doesn’t think any changes will hurt the six-time champ, Jimmie Johnson.

“No matter what format you put out there, he’s the favorite,” Keselowski said. “Until that’s not the case, I don’t see how there’s any format that could be wrote, unless it’s the slowest guy wins, and I don’t think they’re going to do that.”

Edwards said taking away the downforce on cars and making the tires softer is a good place to start. He said it would go a long way toward increasing competitive racing at the front of the pack.

“No matter what format we race under I can’t just try harder and go up and race with the guy or pass him,” Edwards said. “I think the thing we have to focus on as a sport is making sure the cars can race one another. … Right now, if I’m staring at the guy in the front window it doesn’t matter if (I’m racing) for a billion dollars and 10 championships – if I can’t catch him, I can’t catch him.”

It’s not necessarily that Edwards is against the format. But he said if France’s proposals, with the emphasis on winning races to get into the Chase for the Championship, come to fruition, it will change the way drivers approach the season.

“Things will get really, really interesting around Richmond. That will be insane,” Edwards said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he wasn’t excited about the proposed changes at first, but has begun to warm to the idea.

“Let’s change it all. I’m all for it,” Earnhardt said. “A lot of times we change things for the fans, and I think the drivers are going to enjoy some of this stuff as much as the fans are.”

A team owner, Richard Petty, said proposed changes are a “PR deal” by NASCAR designed to drum up more interest in the sport. He still thinks the best drivers will come out on top regardless of the format.

“They just want to shake things up,” Petty said.

NASCAR is essentially borrowing a page from other major sports such as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball where teams – or in this case, drivers – are eliminated from playoff contention while the season climaxes with one championship event.

 

HALL OF FAME: The Petty dynasty is now completely represented in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Maurice Petty was formally inducted into the Hall, joining his father, brother and cousin as members of the exclusive group.

Maurice Petty was the first member of the fifth class to be inducted. “The Chief” was inducted by his brother, Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion and member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class.

Maurice Petty is the first engine builder to be inducted into the Hall. His engines won seven titles and more than 200 races, including seven Daytona 500s.

Also in the Hall from the Petty Enterprise dynasty is the patriarch, Lee Petty, and the Petty boys’ crew chief and cousin, Dale Inman.