Lots of drivers have nothing to lose in Cup race at Richmond

Chris Buescher is aiming to run a clean race Saturday at Richmond.

Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images

"The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose."  James A. Baldwin

By my count, there are at least 14 drivers at Richmond International Raceway who on Saturday night will have nothing to lose.

Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Nothing to lose at all.

Starting lineup for the Federated Auto Parts 400 with Denny Hamlin wins pole

Let’s do the math: A total of 16 drivers will be locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup following the conclusion of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400. Another 10 — the drivers in points positions 31-40 — would not be Chase eligible even if they won because they aren’t in the top 30 in points.

So that leaves 14 drivers — exactly 35 percent of the field — who are winless so far and not one of the 16 Chase seeds right now, but would make the Chase with a victory at RIR on Saturday night. 

What do those 14 have to lose?

Not a freaking thing.

And what do those 14 have to gain?

A whole lot.

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A spot in the Chase is worth millions of dollars in sponsorship incentives and prize money.

It could be the difference between keeping a sponsor or losing a sponsor. 

Or keeping your ride or losing it.

A victory would also mean a spot in next year’s NASCAR All-Star Race and more immediately, a lot more exposure than the non-Chase drivers will get over the last 10 weeks of the season.

So there will be plenty of desperate drivers at Richmond Saturday night.

Carl Edwards is not one of those desperate drivers — he has two wins already and is locked into the Chase — but he hasn’t forgotten how it feels.

"As a driver, the first time I was involved in a Chase battle was 2005 trying to make the Chase here," Edwards said. "And I can still remember very specific details about that race. It seems like it took about a year. It was a huge amount of pressure just to make it in."

Chris Buescher is one of the guys just inside the Chase bubble — he’s 30th in points, 11 points up on David Ragan. Buescher said Friday that he worries about the guys who have nothing to lose.

"We have to be careful," Buescher. "There are guys like Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman that will be racing extremely aggressive trying to get into this thing. We have to be careful around certain drivers. We are going out there to race, though."

So is everyone else.

"When you get to a certain point in the year you kind of know what you’ve got and you know how you’ve got to attack and how it’s going to work out," said Austin Dillon. "Use your strengths to the best of your ability and that is what you get. Hopefully, it comes out right."

Saturday night under the lights at Richmond, you will see pit strategy, you  will see bumping and banging, and you may even see drivers wreck each other to win.

That’s what happens when people have nothing to lose.

And in this case, those with nothing to lose constitute more than one-third of the field. Boys, have at it.