Gordon can’t afford to relax on Saturday

Jeff Gordon meets with the media at Richmond International Raceway on September 11, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.

Jeff Gordon meets with the media at Richmond International Raceway on September 11, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. –  When it comes to making the Chase, the odds are heavily in Jeff Gordon’s favor.

If a driver in the top 16 wins on Saturday night, Gordon is locked into the postseason. Even if a driver outside that Chase-eligible group takes the checkered flag, Gordon can secure a Chase spot with a finish of 17th or better, 18th if he leads a lap and 19th if he leads most laps.

In the latter case, however, a catastrophic mechanical failure or an early wreck could knock the four-time champion out of the Chase in his final season as a full-time driver. And Gordon knows it.

“Certainly, there’s no comfort in where we’re at,” Gordon said Friday at Richmond. “It’s so easy for things to go wrong, and you’re just trying to focus on doing everything right.”

Gordon is no stranger to pressure at Richmond, but in the 11 previous editions of the Chase, he has qualified for the playoff 10 times, the lone exception coming in 2005, when the field was limited to the top 10 drivers in the standings.

Nevertheless, he’s wary of drivers in the Federated Auto Parts 400 who can go for broke without consequence.

“I would rather be in this position than like the ones on the outside looking in, but the advantage that they have is that they have nothing to lose and they can just go all out and not even worry about it,” Gordon said.

“For us, we can’t necessarily do that, and sometimes when you get conservative, that’s when you get yourself in trouble. So we’re going to try and balance that out, and I think we are very capable of doing that.”

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