Will traditional Bristol mayhem alter Chase outlook?

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It’s probably a foregone conclusion that at least some cars will be torn up tonight as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes on the always-dicey Bristol Motor Speedway. The question is whether or not the championship dreams of some Chase hopefuls will suffer the same fate.

After tonight’s Irwin Tools Night Race, there will be just two events remaining before the field for NASCAR’s playoff stretch is set. One thing’s for sure: Nobody on or near the Chase “bubble” wants a season-ending setback tonight in Tennessee.

Here’s a look at who has the most to gain and lose – the drivers in the 7th to 15th place range in the Cup standings:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (7th place, no wins; +20 points from 11th)
Last five results at Bristol: 11th, 16th, 15th, 12th, 6th.
Has not won at BMS since 2004, but has finished no worse than 18th there since 2008 night race.

Brad Keselowski (8th place, no wins; +8 points from 11th)
Last five results at Bristol: 18th, 1st, 1st, 30th, 3rd.
Interesting note from Rotoworld: Keselowski had fastest 10-lap average speed in Friday’s final practice.

Kurt Busch (9th place, no wins; +6 points from 11th)
Last five results at Bristol: 7th, 17th, 18th, 28th, 4th.
Five-time BMS winner will help Denny Hamlin lead field to the green.

Greg Biffle (10th place, one win; +4 points from 11th)
Last five results at Bristol: 8th, 31st, 13th, 19th, 11th.
Best career mark at BMS was a third-place showing in the 2005 night race.

Kasey Kahne (11th place; Wild Card, two wins)
Last five results at Bristol: 9th, 11th, 37th, 9th, 1st.
Won at BMS back in the spring and should be a threat again tonight.

Martin Truex Jr. (12th place; Wild Card, one win)
Last five results at Bristol: 17th, 2nd, 3rd, 11th, 12th.
Has not finished outside the Top 20 at BMS since the 2009 night race (22nd).

Joey Logano (13th place, one win; -7 points behind WC)
Last five results at Bristol: 23rd, 13th, 16th, 8th, 17th.
Hoping for better outcome in Bristol return following spring dust-up with Hamlin.

Jeff Gordon (14th place, no wins; -26 points behind 10th place)
Last five results at Bristol: 14th, 3rd, 35th, 3rd, 34th.
Another five-time victor at this track, but last BMS win came in 2002.

Ryan Newman (15th place, one win; -17 points behind WC)
Last five results at Bristol: 10th, 8th, 12th, 36th, 7th.
Second win this year would scramble Wild Card picture, but he has only one career Top-5 at Bristol.

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.