This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.
This weekend we return to the famous short track in Bristol, Tenn., for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. The high-contact, short-track action under the lights is one of the most popular races in the schedule.
It's been a long, hard haul since race No. 7 of the season, which was the last time NASCAR's top division visited Thunder Valley. Since that time we've seen Denny Hamlin dominate the championship standings lead for the most part, with a good challenge from Kyle Larson. We've seen Hamlin and Larson completely pound the competition into the ground. We've seen Aric Almirola's big upset victory at Loudon. We've also seen AJ Allmendinger's second career win at the Indy GP circuit. More recently we witnessed Ryan Blaney's back-to-back wins at Michigan and Daytona. So a lot has happened since the NASCAR Cup Series last visited the high banks of BMS.
This visit to Bristol Motor Speedway will be different than the recent past. The late-summer Bristol race is no longer a part of the regular season schedule, but now makes up the first segment of the Chase for the Cup playoffs. This is the third race of the Chase and the cutoff to advance into the second round of the NASCAR playoffs. To advance, drivers simply have to win or be below the cut line of the Top 12 in the championship points. That added urgency to advance will really crank up the pressure for this 500-lap battle. Tensions