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.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.