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Austin Cindric defends winning bump as ‘game NASCAR has set up for us to play’

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Austin Cindric, whose last lap, bump-and-run move to win Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race added to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s history of controversial finishes, says his actions were a result of “the game NASCAR has set up for us.’’

Cindric, who scored his first career series win to earn a spot in the playoffs for he and his Brad Keselowski Racing team, made his comments on the MRN Motorsports Monday show.

Cindric ran into the back of leader Kaz Grala’s truck and moved by to take the win. The contact spun Grala, who finished third.

“It’s pretty obvious what happened,’’ Cindric said of his contact. “I may have been too honest about what went through my head in order to make that happen. I don’t race that way, contrary to what most think, especially after yesterday.

“But honestly, it’s the game NASCAR has set up for us to play, which isn’t a negative, but it also is not a positive. Guys have dumped people for wins, especially at that race track for many, many years.

“I honestly would haven’t done it unless I had incentive. My incentive was to get the team a win, and my incentive was to get us in the playoffs. If we’re in the playoffs, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s just one of those deals that you had to get yourself to do.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever gone into a corner and known that I was going to throttle up and hit the guy in front of me. No, I wasn’t planning on spinning him out. There was a lot of runoff there to the left I was going to move him to and try to get a good run down the straightaway, but I ended up sending him around.

“You can’t apologize for winning. I definitely don’t like how it all ended up especially with Kaz because Kaz and I have grown up racing together. Kaz and I are friends. Obviously that may change after that weekend. I know he’s not very happy, and he has all the right to be. It’s one of those things I’m going to have to move through and try to earn some respect back over time, I guess.’’

Grala expressed his displeasure on Twitter after the race.

This adds to the legacy of memorable finishes at the road track.

Last year, John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer made contact coming to the finish line. Custer needed to win to make the playoffs. Nemechek won.

“Even in the Cole Custer thing and Nemechek last year, the thing about that was Nemechek took Cole’s chance away to contend for the championship,’’ Cindric told MRN Motorsports Monday. “I guess maybe where I was a bit too blunt in saying in my interview after the race that Kaz was already in the playoffs … I wasn’t taking his future away. I was taking a win away. Obviously, it still hurts just as much.

“It’s one of those deals that it made it a very simple decision for me. I didn’t know if I was going to have enough time to pass him cleanly down in (Turn) 10, and it was one of those things he probably wasn’t expecting me to get to him in (Turn) 5. Five was where I was strongest all day. I’m going to have to exploit that. I felt like that was the best way for me to get away before the last corner because you can usually see guys able to come back at them through (Turns) 9 and 10 because they’re esses, it’s just kind of one of those deals.

“You’re exactly right, in no series that I’ve raced in before except for in NASCAR have you been able to get away with something like that. It’s the game you play, and you have to play the game. I’m actually, honestly very surprised that lots of people aren’t accepting of what happened. I can understand that they’re upset, but it’s a move I had to make to put ourselves in a position to contend for the championship.’’

In 2013, Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon raced for the win there. Elliott won after contact on the final corner of the final lap.

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Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.

Christopher Bell fastest in final Truck practice at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell was fastest in the second and final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice session Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell covered the 1.058-mile flat track with a top speed of 132.877 mph.

Ben Rhodes was second (132.301 mph), followed by Todd Gilliland (132.213), Matt Crafton (132.122) and Noah Gragson (132.071).

Sixth through 10th were Johnny Sauter (132.016), Austin Cindric (131.865), Grant Enfinger (131.683), Ryan Truex (131.656) and Kaz Grala ((131.533).

Qualifying for the UNOH 175 takes place Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, while the green flag for the race drops three hours later at 1 p.m. ET. Both qualifying and the race will be televised on FoxSports1.

Click here for the full speed grid from the final Truck practice.

New Hampshire to host September spectacular next year

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LOUDON, New Hampshire – Although the Cup series will not race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next September, the track still will have racing.

Officials from New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR announced Friday that the track will host multiple series Sept. 21-22. The track will host:

  • A 250-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, the longest race in series history.
  • A 125-lap NASCAR K&N Pro Series race that will include series champions from the Mexico and Europe series.
  • A 100-lap NASCAR Pinty’s Series race in the first race for the Canadian series in the United States.

Practice and qualifying will take place on Sept. 21. Racing will be Sept. 22.

“We are creating a short-track weekend that I think fans from across the Northeast are going to be so excited about,” said David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway.

McGrath estimates the track will attract 15,000 – 20,000 fans for the inaugural event.

“We will start there and certainly hope to grow there,” McGrath said. “We certainly have the space to do it.”

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, has high hopes for this event.

“Anytime we enter into a conversation about a special event like this, it’s done thinking about the long term and building,” Cassidy said. “I would like to look at this as certainly a building block on a big-time weekend for racing.”

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ready to move past Chicagoland woes

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was blunt as he looked back at last weekend’s 25th-place finish in the opening playoff race.

“It’s the worst playoff race I’ve ever had,’’ he said before quickly adding, “actually, it was the only playoff race I ever had.’’

A week after he hit the wall, had a commitment line violation and sped on pit road to finish last among the 16 playoff drivers, Stenhouse heads to a New Hampshire Motor Speedway that has been unkind to him. His average finish of 20.44 at this track is the worst among the playoff contenders.

It’s easy to peg Stenhouse, whose best finish at New Hampshire is ninth, as one of the four drivers who won’t advance to the second round after next weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

Stenhouse says don’t end his title hopes just yet.

“I think there are tracks you look at where you feel like, ‘Hey, we don’t run well there,’ ‘’ Stenhouse said Friday. “There are tracks you look at and average finishes aren’t as good as what you really ran, and I think New Hampshire is one of those race tracks for us.

“I can count two or three times where we’ve been in the top 10 and we come down on our last pit stop and we’ve had freak accidents on pit road that we end up restarting tail end. I think that skews a little bit on the finishes, so I think we’ve got confidence that we can run with those cars that we’re chasing.’’

He better or his playoff experience will be brief. He enters Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) four points out of the cutoff spot.

“We keep our head up because we’re only four points out, so I think that’s the key message around the shop this week,’’ Stenhouse said. “We had, by far, the worst race we could have ever thought of having and we’re still close. I think that’s the key.”

For him to turn in a good run — and a good finish Sunday — Stenhouse said the key will be where he starts and how strong he is on restarts.

“We’ve always been really good on the long runs and you get quite a few long runs here,’’ said Stenhouse, who was 24th on the speed chart after Friday’s practice. “That seems to be our strong suit. Restarts seem to be some of the areas that we need to get better at. I was on the plane ride up today just looking at our notes from this last race and that was it. 

“We were strong on the long runs, needed to get our restarts better, and need to qualify better. These first two stages you can really run without pitting, so that first stage it’s going to be important to qualify well and make sure we put ourselves in a position to maybe get some stage points if it does go green, and our car is good on the long runs.’’

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