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Noah Gragson driving with heavy heart after death of crew member’s wife

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img_4155Noah Gragson, a rookie driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, is competing with a heavy heart tonight after the death of a crew member’s wife just before Friday’s race.

Stephanie Merritt, the wife of team mechanic Jeff Merritt, died from injuries sustained in an auto accident two weeks ago.

Gragson, 18, gave an emotional interview with Fox Sports 1 prior to the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

“One of my guys back home, Jeff, we had a hard loss a couple of minutes ago,” Gragson said. “His wife passed away. They got in a car wreck over the offseason. He worked really, really hard on this truck. We’re going to go out there and drive as hard as we can today for him, for Stephanie.”

The stickers shown above is on Gragson’s truck.

Gragson, driving the No. 18, will start 12th is his third race in the Truck Series.

He was eliminated in a 17-truck crash on the second lap. He was hit from behind and sent into the wall, triggering the incident.

NASCAR America: Parker Kligerman takes to simulator to show Xfinity changes at Indy (video)

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While Saturday will mark the sixth straight year the NASCAR Xfinity Series will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there will be significant changes. 

Among the changes: the use of restrictor plates, as well as adding aero ducts to aid cars with the draft.

On Tbursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway — on the NBCSN iRacing Simulator, that is — to show how some of those changes will impact the cars and potentially the race.

Check it out in the video above.

Friday’s NASCAR schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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Friday will be somewhat of an easy, relaxing day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cars will only take to the track twice in the afternoon — both being Xfinity Series practice sessions, which will be on the NBC Sports App.

IMS will host the NASCAR Cup Fan Fest from 4:30 – 8 p.m. ET, followed by the NASCAR Cup hauler parade that will see transporters enter the Speedway around 9 p.m. ET.

Here’s the rest of Friday’s schedule (all times Eastern):

FRIDAY, JULY 21

9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 – 1:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

NASCAR America: Pit crew members share their hidden talents

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What does a sky diver and Olympic-caliber swimmer have in common?

They make their living on NASCAR’s pit road, that’s what.

Check out two of this week’s pit crew all-star nominees, as seen on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

NASCAR America: Xfinity drivers react to restrictor plates at Indy (video)

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On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, several of the stars of the NASCAR Xfinity Series tried to explain in three words what to expect with the use of restrictor plates in this Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

See what they said and what they’re thinking about Saturday’s race in the video above.