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 on the schedule. It's been a long, hard haul since the ninth race of the season, which was the last time NASCAR's top division visited Thunder Valley.
Since then, we've seen Kevin Harvick dominate the championship standings lead for the most part, with a good challenge from Denny Hamlin. We've seen Harvick and Hamlin completely pound the competition into the ground. We've seen Cole Custer's big upset victory at Kentucky. We've also seen William Byron's first-career win at Daytona a couple weeks ago. 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 will be high, and so will be the pressure to advance and stay in