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Ohio native Matt Tifft enjoying Cleveland’s best sports year in decades

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Matt Tifft‘s first sports love is auto racing. But the Ohio native is a loyal fan of Cleveland’s sports teams.

Tifft, 20, was raised in Hinckley, a suburb of the city that is home to the NFL’s Browns, the NBA’s Cavaliers and MLB’s Indians.

“Our weekends growing up, for me, you watch the race and you watch the Browns,” Tifft told NBC Sports back in September. “That’s just what you did.”

But born in 1996, Tifft had never experienced a title by any of those teams before this year.

The city itself hadn’t won one in 52 years.

“The sports teams there mean a ton more than they would anywhere else,” Tifft said. “Just cause it’s a very sports depressed town. The things that have happened there over time, everybody there bonds over sports. It’s a bigger deal than a lot of other places because there’s not a lot else to do.”

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22: Cleveland fans celebrate during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors to bring the first professional sports championship to the city of Cleveland since 1964. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
Cleveland fans celebrate during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

The five decades of misery ended in June when the Lebron James-led Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in seven games.

The feat took place on June 19, the same day Tifft was originally scheduled to compete in a Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver sat out the race for a disk problem in his back, a condition that resulted in the discovery that Tifft had low-grade brain tumor. The tumor was surgically removed on July 1 and Tifft is already back racing.

The Cavaliers’ victory and the resulting parade turned the streets of Cleveland into a sea of humanity the city had never seen before.

“That was awesome,” Tifft said. “That was cool. I was down here (in North Carolina). I wish I could have been up in Cleveland to see that and see the parade when they had 1.3 million people out in the city, that was just insane.”

But the sports highs aren’t over yet for Tifft and the other Cleveland faithful.

On Wednesday, the Indians completed a 4-1 series win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series, advancing to their first World Series since 1997.

Tifft was just a year old then. But the Indians would provide him with his most emotional non-racing sport experience a few years later.

“I remember going to a Cleveland Indians game when I was probably 8 or 10 years old or something like that,” Tifft said. “We go to a lot of the Indians games. It was a game that my dad and I were at. They were playing the Detroit Tigers and it was the bottom of the ninth inning and I think they were losing six runs or something impossible to get. I think they hit a couple of home runs in a row and ended up winning. I remember it was really cool.”

That moment might have been topped for Tifft when the Indians clinched their World Series spot. But unlike the Cavaliers’ championship run, Tifft has gotten to experience a piece of the Indians’ title bid.

Now the Indians and their faithful wait to find out who they’ll face in the World Series. The Indians, who haven’t won a title since 1948, will play either the Chicago Cubs, who are without a title since 1908 and haven’t been to a World Series since 1945 or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who haven’t been to a World Series or won one since 1988.

The only thing missing from Tifft’s Cleveland sports bliss is his Browns. The AFC North team has never been to a Super Bowl and is 0-6 so far this season.

“When you’re a Browns fan, you don’t remember anything good because nothing good ever happens,” Tifft said.

But the Ohio native is ready for when that day comes.

“Whenever the Browns make it to the playoffs or the Super Bowl … I may be dead by the time that happens,” Tifft said. “But if that happens, I will be there.”

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks Phoenix finish, racing roots

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins NASCAR America to go over his fourth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also shares his racing origins in Mississippi and the hobbies he and girlfriend Danica Patrick share with each other.

Stenhouse is in his fifth full-time year competing in the NASCAR Cup Series with Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Alaska

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NASCAR America continues its journey through the United States with the second chapter in “50 States in 50 Shows.”

Following South Alabama Speedway, the show features Capitol Speedway and Alaska Raceway Park in Alaska.

Owned by Nancy and Wes Wallace, Capitol Speedway is a 3/8th-mile oval and features sprint car racing and demolition derbies.

 

Kevin Harvick crew chief fined, suspended one race for encumbered finish

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Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has been suspended for one NASCAR Cup Series race and fined $25,000 for an unapproved track bar slider assembly last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The penalty, a L1 infraction, results in an encumbered finish. Harvick placed sixth in the Camping World 500.

The No. 4 team has also been docked 10 driver and owner points. Harvick was seventh in the standings after four races. He trailed leader Kyle Larson by 61 points. The loss of points drops Harvick one spot to eighth behind Jamie McMurray.

Harvick has not won a race yet, which would qualify him for the playoffs.

MORE: Brad Keselowski closes crew chief for three races, team docked 35 driver points

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”

 

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