Another Talladega surprise in store this weekend?

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Anything can happen at Talladega Superspeedway, where last year’s Sprint Cup races brought about two surprise winners.

And with this year’s overhaul of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a dark horse springing an upset doesn’t just mean pulling one over on the big boys.

It could very well mean being able to fight for a championship.

Last spring at ‘Dega, David Ragan and David Gilliland pulled off a 1-2 finish for the small Front Row Motorsports team, while Jamie McMurray earned his first Sprint Cup win in three years when he took the checkers there last fall.

But that’s not the only time Talladega’s free-for-all nature has yielded a shock result.

Take the 2009 spring race, where a young Brad Keselowski led only one lap – the final lap – in earning his inaugural Cup win for the Phoenix Racing team.

Keselowski was a ways off from the leaders before he hooked up with Carl Edwards in the draft. At the white flag, the two had taken the lead but as they headed for the checkered flag in the tri-oval, Keselowski went inside and turned Edwards, who was hit by another competitor and sent skyward into the catch fence.

An equally memorable ‘Dega finish came in the fall of 2006 as Brian Vickers was chasing then-Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap.

But down the backstretch, Vickers moved with Johnson to the inside and tapped him, which sent Johnson spinning into Earnhardt.

When the ensuing caution froze the field, Vickers was found to be leading the way and was awarded his own first win in the Cup Series – much to the annoyance of the heavy Earnhardt fan base in the grandstands.

Will we see another unexpected result this weekend? It’d only be fitting at Talladega, which has taught us time and again to expect the unexpected.

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.