Kaz Grala on Austin Cindric contact: ‘I’m going to race people the way they race me’ (video)

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Two days after his last lap run-in with Austin Cindric in the Camping World Truck Series race, Kaz Grala said going forward he’ll show Cindric the same “level of sportsmanship that he showed me” when Cindric spun him to win.

Grala, a rookie for GMS Racing, made his comments on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.”

Cindric scored his first NASCAR win after intentionally ramming into the back of Grala’s truck in Turn 5 of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, sending Grala spinning. The 18-year-old Grala, who won at Daytona in February, wound up finishing third.

“I think any good driver will tell you that they have a pretty good memory,” Grala said. “I’m not necessarily one to go out and flat wreck somebody like he did to me. … I honestly don’t think you should expect to see that approach from me. But I can tell you any time we’re racing around each other I’ll give him the level of sportsmanship that he showed me this weekend. I’m just going to use up all the room that I need and he’ll have to figure it out from there. Again, nothing personal at all, I’m going to race people the way they race me.”

Grala said he had been warned by his team after Cindric banged fenders with Noah Gragson to take second place.

“The 19 is being very aggressive behind you, just be prepared,” Grala said he was told.

But Grala was caught off guard by Cindric’s maneuver.

“We’ve known each other for years,” Grala said. “I honestly didn’t expect quite that. I think going forward for myself and everybody else, I think we just need to race each other the way we want to be raced. I will continue to race people with respect and kindly have a little bit of give and take because at the end of the day, if you can’t make it to the last lap of the race, you’re never going to win the race.”

Grala said the race was Cindric’s to lose, especially with the Brad Keselowski Racing driver in possession of “50 percent newer tire life” than Grala.

“I think honestly he was intimidated to try to race me down into those last couple of corners,” Grala said. “He saw that as his opportunity to not have to face me down into Turns 8, 9 and 10. He certainly dealt with me and got me out of his way, and he was able to complete that lap completely unchallenged, which I just feel bad because I feel like it denied the fans a bit of a race.”

Cindric appeared on the Motor Racing Network’s Motorsports Monday to defend his last-lap actions that delivered BKR its first win of the year and a spot for him in the playoffs. Cindric claimed he wouldn’t have made the move had he already been secured in the playoffs.

“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,” Cindric said. “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 said respect is something Cindric can earn back, but that it might be a hard thing to accomplish in the final eight races of the year.

“I think the 19 is going to have a difficult time going forward in the season because I think he lost the respect of some drivers out there and that’s not something he can’t gain back. He sure can,” Grala said. “It’s just for an immediate effect this season, I’m just not sure it was necessarily the right move for him and his team going forward.”

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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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