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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.”

Starting lineup for Cup race at Richmond

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Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott will start on the front row for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway.

Truex won his third pole of the season.

The top five is completed by Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Kyle Busch, who is trying to win a third consecutive race, qualified 32nd.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Martin Truex Jr. wins pole for Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway

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Martin Truex Jr. qualified first for Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway, winning his third pole of the season.

Truex claimed the pole with a speed of 123.859 mph around the .75-mile track. The Toyota Owners 400 will mark Truex’s 450th Cup start. Truex had DNFs in the last two races.

“It’s definitely been a crappy two weeks,” Truex told Fox Sports 1. “But that’s part of racing. This team, I’ve got so much faith and confidence in them and everything we’re doing. You can’t let those kinds of things get you down. It was nothing we did, just circumstances. Just proud of the effort today.”

The pole matches Truex’s total from last year.

Chase Elliott qualified second (123.621 mph). The top five is completed by Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Ryan Blaney will start 12th, followed by Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson.

Daniel Hemric will start 22nd in his first Cup start.

Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski both failed to advance out of the first round. Keselowski will start 28th and Busch will start 32nd.

“We didn’t make a mock run in practice and then we thought the spread would be about three tenths (of a second),” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “It wasn’t, it was faster than that. We only ran two laps trying to make sure we preserve out tires for later on deeper into the session. A bunch of those guys ran three laps and obviously we needed that third lap. It would have picked up. For some reason the tire here today, even in race trim, your fastest lap was the seventh lap. So just takes awhile for everything to come in. Just trying to short cut it a little bit and it didn’t work out for us.”

Click here for qualifying results.

Cole Custer wins pole for Xfinity race at Richmond

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Cole Custer will start first in tonight’s Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway after earning his second consecutive pole.

Custer won the pole for the ToyotaCare 250 with a lap of 121.332 mph. He earned his first career pole last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will be joined on the front row by Christopher Bell (120.881 mph). He has started on the front row in four of the first eight races this season.

The top five is rounded out by Austin Cindric, Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek.

Cindric will start in the top five for the first time this season.

Hemric is the highest qualifying of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers. Justin Allgaier will start seventh and Elliott Sadler will roll off eighth. Spencer Gallagher will start 17th.

Noah Gragson will start 11th in his Xfinity debut.

Tyler Reddick suffered some cosmetic damage when he scrapped the frontstretch wall in Round 2. He will start 10th.

Click here for qualifying results.

Tonight’s Xfinity race at Richmond: Start time, lineup and more

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The Xfinity Series is back on a short track for round two of the Dash 4 Cash series. Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Daniel Hemric and Spencer Gallagher will compete for the $100,000 bonus tonight at Richmond Raceway.

Here is all the info for tonight’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START:  Leslie Gravitte, Toyota Camry owner, will give the command to start engines at 7:07 p.m for the ToyotaCare 250. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (187.5 miles) around the .75-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5:10 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:35 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Henrico Fire Choir will perform the anthem at 7:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 7 p.m. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 59 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson took the lead with 10 laps to go to win this race last April. He was followed by Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric. Brad Keselowski won last September’s race and was followed by Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for starting lineup.