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Huge last-lap crash gives Kaz Grala historic win in NASCAR Truck Series opener

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Goof Off/Menards Toyota, flips during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton flips through the air on the final lap of the Camping World Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kaz Grala escaped a huge crash on the last lap of the NextEra Energy Resources 250 to become the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history at Daytona International Speedway.

Grala, 18, was running near the front when a 12-truck crash broke out that saw Matt Crafton go airborne, flip and land on the back of Johnny Sauter‘s No. 21 truck.

Grala, who sat on the pole, managed to evade the mayhem in his No. 33 GMS Racing Truck and take the checkered flag. The native of Boston was the youngest Daytona pole-sitter in NASCAR history.

The win comes in Grala’s 10th Truck start and is his first top five.

“I wish you could tell me (how I won the race),” Grala told Fox Sports 1. “I didn’t know what I was doing out there. I don’t know how to go a donut. I don’t know how to do a victory lap like that. I just know that I’m Polish, so I figured I should drive backwards.”

Grala followed his teammate, Sauter, for most of the night until a two-lap shootout after a late caution. Grala said his radio chord came undone on Lap 79 and he wasn’t able to get it functioning again until right before the final restart of the 100-lap race.

“Honestly I got lucky coming out of (Turn) 2 there, I just didn’t lift and everything went crazy around me,” Grala said. “I can’t believe we won Daytona. This completely changes the season in a way we can play it.”

Grala was followed by Austin Wayne Self, Chase Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek and Joe Nemechek.

Grala was the first official winner of a NASCAR national race since the introduction of the new stage race format.

Stage 1 winner: Johnny Sauter

Stage 2 winner: Johnny Sauter

MORE: Truck Series points standings

MORE: Race results and stats

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Most of the drivers who were not involved in the two massive wrecks that marked the beginning and end of the race … Chase Briscoe was the driver the triggered a 14 car accident on Lap 2, but he finished third. Myatt Snider and JJ Yeley finished in the top 10 … Regan Smith was involved in the last-lap crash, but finished sixth … John Hunter Nemechek rebounded from a Lap 95 spin to finished fourth. He was followed by his father, Joe Nemechek.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Most of the 14 drivers involved in a crash at the beginning of the second lap. Noah Gragson, Austin Cindric, John Hunter Nemechek, Clay Greenfield, Stewart Friesen, Ross Chastain, Stewart Friesen, Tommy Joe Martins, Tyler Young, Chase Briscoe, J.J. Yeley, Terry Jones, Cody Coughlin, Snider and Bobby Gerhart.  The wreck began when Cindric turned Gragson into the outside wall as the field approached Turn 1. Gragson then came back down the track as cars began collecting in the wreck …

The end of the first 20-lap stage saw a crash involving Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell, with Bell going airborne. Bell continued, but Moffitt’s night ended with the expiration of the five-minute damage clock … Bell was involved in a second crash with Korbin Forrister with 29 to go. Bell finished eighth on the lead lap.

Twelve drivers were involved in the lap crash: Crafton (14th), Sauter (15th), Ben Rhodes (12th), Travis Kvapil (24th), Regan Smith (sixth), Bell (eighth), Self (second), Myatt Snider (10th), Cody Coughlin (11th), Timothy Peters (17th), Gallagher (13th) and Grant Enfinger (16th).

NOTABLE: GMS Racing has now won two straight season-opening races at Daytona. Sauter won last year’s race.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It got wild. We all knew it was. The whole race was really wild. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and fortunately I was able to find the right place and be there at the right time, and that’s why we came home second.” – Austin Wayne Self, who finished second for his first top five in 17 Truck Series starts.

WHAT’S NEXT: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 4:30 p.m. ET on March 4 on Fox Sports 1.

 

NASCAR America 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Dale Earnhardt Jr. live from NASCAR Hall

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Our special guest for the entire hour is two-time Daytona 500 winner and 14-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Marty Snider hosts and will be joined by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton.

Among the topics on today’s show:

  • We’ll talk with Dale Jr. about his last Cup race at Talladega, the emotions he went through, starting from the pole for the first time there and ultimately finishing seventh.
  • How is Earnhardt approaching the final five races of his Cup career before retiring at season’s end, the JR Nation Appreci88ion campaign, his role with NBC Sports Group next season, as well as his Hall of Fame father, Dale Earnhardt and the Earnhardt legacy. Also, what does the future hold for him?
  • Speaking of the future, we’ll also congratulate the 26-time Cup race winner on soon becoming a father for the first time with wife Amy. What kind of father does Junior expect to be?
  • You can also send in your own questions for Dale Jr, who will answer them during the show! Just send them on social media with the hashtag #AskDaleJr

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

William Byron tops Xfinity playoff grid to start second round

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The second round of the Xfinity Series playoffs begins this weekend when the series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Kansas Lottery 300.

Following an elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the series and the eight remaining playoff drivers are coming off an off week for the first time in months.

Those eight drivers are led by JR Motorsports’ William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler. The three drivers have been at the top of the standings since the second race of the first round.

There was a minor adjustment after the Charlotte race. Matt Tifft was penalized 10 driver points for his car failing post-race inspection. But due to the reset in points, it had no bearing on his placement in the playoffs.

Tifft is eighth in the standings and trails Ryan Reed by one point. The bottom four drivers – Cole Custer, Brennan Poole, Reed and Tifft – are each separated by one point.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Carl Edwards to receive Stan Musial Award for sportsmanship

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Former NASCAR Cup driver Carl Edwards is among one of more than a dozen individuals that will receive the prestigious 2017 Musial Award.

The annual ceremony will be held Nov. 18 at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.

The Musial Awards – named after late St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial – “honor this year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports for their class and character,” according to a media release.

Edwards will be honored for his actions in last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Here’s how the awards committee described what Edwards did that day:

Last November at Homestead—Miami Speedway, Edwards was among four drivers in contention for NASCAR’s Cup Series championship. He led the season finale race with 10 laps to go. But as he tried to block competitor Joey Logano from passing him on a restart, the two drivers crashed, ending Edwards’ shot for his first Cup Series title.

“Instead of losing his cool, as other athletes might have done, Edwards took the high road and showed pure class. He walked over to Logano’s pit crew, shook hands with crew chief Todd Gordon, and wished the team good luck. It was a gesture of extraordinary sportsmanship that was lauded throughout NASCAR.

“Based on the character he has shown throughout his career, it was not a surprise Edwards would take such a gracious approach. Winner of NASCAR’s Busch Series in 2011 and holder of 28 Cup Series wins, the Columbia, Mo., native’s success on the track is equaled by the class, respect and humility he has personified over time.”

Also, renowned track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee – considered by some as the greatest female athlete ever – will receive the Musial Lifetime Achievement Award, joining previous lifetime award winners Joe Torre (2014), Arnold Palmer (2015) and Cal Ripken Jr. (2016).

Other honorees include Arizona Cardinals (NFL) president Michael Bidwell, female boxer Aliyah Charbonier and LSU head baseball coach Paul Mainieri.

Preliminary entry lists for Kansas Speedway

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NASCAR’s top two series will be in action this weekend at Kansas Speedway as they hold two different stages of their playoff races.

The Cup Series has its second round elimination race with the Hollywood Casino 400. The Xfinity Series begins its second round with the Kansas Lottery 300 after an off week.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races:

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400

There are 41 cars entered into the race.

StarCom Racing is set to make its debut with Derrike Cope driving the No. 00 Chevrolet. Tony Furr will serve as Cope’s crew chief.

There are four cars without drivers attached to them yet: BK Racing’s No. 23 and No. 83 Toyotas, Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet and Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet.

Gray Gaulding will driving Premium Motorsports’ No. 55 Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr. won the last visit to Kansas Speedway in May. He beat Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick after passing Ryan Blaney with 19 laps to go.

Harvick is the defending winner of the playoff race.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300

There are 41 cars entered into the race.

Cup drivers entered into the race include Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Christopher Bell will driver the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kyle Busch is the defending winner of this race. He has won the last three Xfinity races at the track.

Click here for the entry list.