Kaz Grala

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Christopher Bell enters Truck playoffs with 15-point lead

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JOLIET, Illinois – Christopher Bell, who won a season-high four races, enters the Camping World Truck Series playoffs with a 15-point lead on Johnny Sauter, who won Friday night’s race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bell has 2,040 points after the reset for the playoffs. Sauter is next at 2,025 points. John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton each have 2,014 points. Also making the playoffs are Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ben Rhodes and Kaz Grala.

“It’s huge, thankfully this year we were able to accumulate some points to have a little bit of a cushion going into the playoffs and just really thankful to be here at Kyle Busch Motorsports driving this No. 4 SiriusXM Tundra and not just SiriusXM, but all of our partners at JBL, TRD, Toyota and everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports, there is a whole group there that builds these Tundras and they do an excellent job and it really shows week in and week out.”

The Truck playoffs begin next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Click here for points report

Johnny Sauter wins Truck Series race at Chicago

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Johnny Sauter led the final 28 laps to win the Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

The win, in the regular-season finale, is the second of the year for the GMS Racing driver.

Sauter beat Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Ryan Truex and Grant Enfinger. Sauter took the lead from Bell before racing to the win.

“This is what we needed, this is the momentum, this is the shot in the arm,” Sauter told Fox Sports 1.

Ben Rhodes, who finished sixth, earned the last spot in the playoffs via a tiebreaker over Truex.

Rhodes bounced back from a pit penalty and a second pit stop under yellow to race into the playoffs.

“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Rhodes told FS1. “They gave me the (playoff) hat and I’m like, ‘Are you sure this is ours?’ They said we were tied and we got the tiebreaker. I can’t believe it. The truck, all night we struggled. Ever since we unloaded here this has been by far our worst performance overall. It couldn’t come in a worse week to do it. I’m glad we’re in. Overall, everything worked out for us.”

Competing for the Truck Series title will be Bell, Sauter, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Crafton, Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Rhodes and Kaz Grala.

Truex lost out on a playoff spot after sitting on his first pole and leading 30 laps.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Truex

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

MORE: Points standings

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: John Hunter Nemechek finished seventh for his eighth top 10 … Myatt Snider finished 10th after bouncing back from a spin with six laps to go in Stage 1. It’s his second top 10 in five Truck Series starts … Regan Smith finished 12th. He’s finished in the top 15 in eight of his nine starts. He’s finished 12th four times. … Tyler Young finished 13th for his best result in six starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After making contact with Rhodes during the Stage 3 restart, Matt Crafton dropped through the field before spinning on Lap 106. He finished 16th … Gray Gaulding only made it one lap before his No. 15 truck stalled, bringing out the caution. He continued but fell out on Lap 25 with a fuel pump issue.

NOTABLE: Christopher Bell enters the postseason as the regular-season champion thanks to his four wins. That gives him 15 extra playoff points … Chase Briscoe remains winless despite five finishes in the top three this season.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It’s tough, but it’s racing. We did everything we could aside from win.” – Ryan Truex after missing out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker with Ben Rhodes.

NEXT: UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on Sept. 23 on Fox Sports 1.

NASCAR Spotlight: Q&A with Austin Cindric

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Eleven days ago you may not have known who Austin Cindric was.

Then came the eventful last lap of the Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

After starting the final stage in 16th, Cindric was chasing down Kaz Grala in hopes of passing him and earning his first NASCAR win.

If you were watching, you now know Cindric’s name. You also know the 19-year-old Brad Keselowski Racing driver is willing to give the bump-and-run to Grala, an old friend, to get into the Truck Series playoffs.

“If that didn’t mean a playoff spot for me than it wouldn’t have happened,” Cindric told NBC Sports. “I’ll be frank about that and I’ll be honest it. It’s just one of those things that was going to have to happen for us to move forward. We needed the win and he wanted one.

“Need surpasses want.”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What was your biggest career achievement before your Truck win?

Cindric: It’s hard to say. I think my win in ARCA last year at Kentucky was big for me because that was my first stock car win at an oval after several tries and being really close. That was a huge weight off my shoulders to be able to prove that I’d be able to do it a level and on that kind of stage. But to get it done in the Truck Series is a huge thing. It’s a national series in NASCAR. It’s a huge honor to be able to do it for the team.

NBC Sports: What was Brad Keselowski’s advice on how to handle the situation with Kaz?

Cindric: It was kind of funny talking back and forth because the first thing he told me was the best policy is honesty. I kind of laughed because I may have been too honest in my post-race interview. I think that’s what may have upset a few people, just because it may have not come across the right way about how the finish came off. I’ve got to be honest. It’s one of the qualities, it may be positive, it may be negative for me, but I’m not going to execute a move like that and not own up to it, I think that’s not in my nature and it’s only doing myself a disservice doing it the other way.

NBc Sports: When did you find out Brad Keselowski Racing would be shutting down?

Cindric: The only reason I heard about it before everyone else is because I had to stay the week in Bristol … which was the same week they announced it. Jeremy Thompson, our team’s manager, approached me after the race when we were in tech and told me what Brad was going to do at the shop the next morning and explain it to everybody. Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise for me. Obviously, it was tough not being able to be at the shop for that because I wanted to be with everybody. I wanted to take part in something like that. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to. It definitely means more to be able to bring something back this weekend to kind of get everyone excited for the last eight races.

NBC Sports: What’s your earliest memory related to auto racing?

Cindric: I guess going to the Indy 500 as a kid. When I grew up around racing it was mostly IndyCar racing. My dad (Team Penkse president Tim Cindric) did all of the strategy, managed the IndyCar team till both teams merged in North Carolina. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina that I got much of an introduction to NASCAR and that was at 7 or 8 years old. I was able to watch as many IndyCar races as I could as a kid and travel around in the summer and be able to go to those cool places and meet all the drivers and get their autographs and be a race fan. That’s what I was when I was little. I had all the Hot Wheels, I had all the diecast cars.

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Cindric: I have never actually owned my own car. They’ve all actually been Ford vehicles. When I really started racing sports cars, I started with Ford and their factory Mustang program and the same gear box that was in a race car was in their street car. So I got my own Mustang to drive around and get used to the box because it was going to help me on the race track. Now obviously we’re the only truck team that runs Ford, so we get a lot of support from them. Ford’s been good enough to me to be able drive around town. But I’ve actually never owned my own car.

NBC Sports: What’s your favorite phone app to use that’s not social media?

Cindric: Shazam. I’m a huge music guy and Shazam, it’s the worst when you have the radio stations that never show what the (song) is and you just pull out your phone and boom, two seconds. You get the name of the song, screen shot it and go download it. I’m a Shazam guy.

NBC Sports: If you were competing in the Cup night race at Bristol, what would you choose as your introduction song?

Cindric: I’d like one of the Star Wars theme songs. Like when the Emperor walks out of the galactic shuttle.

NBC Sports: The Imperial March?

Cindric: Imperial March, there you go.

NBC Sports: If you were Star Wars character, who would you be?

Cindric: I’d be like a mix of Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi. … You can’t beat Samuel L. Jackson. And he has a purple lightsaber. Which is always cool because nobody else did. And Obi-Wan because he’s always the positive character, he does what’s right and does what’s necessary and he’s pretty level-headed. I think it’s hard not to like Obi-Wan.

NBC Sports: If you could race against any driver past or present, what track would you race at and what kind of car would it be in?

Cindric: I would race Rick Mears in, I’m not sure. I would say in Group C, which was basically the big prototype series in the 80s, a Group C car. And we would be at Mid-Ohio.

NBC Sports: Why Rick Mears?

Cindric: He’s someone a lot of people have respect for and someone I’ve grown up idolizing. I think he’s obviously a damn good race car driver. To be able to be on the race track with him at the same time and to be wheel-to-wheel with someone like that would be pretty neat.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Southern 500 recap, Pete Pistone, Scan All

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps all of the action from Darlington Raceway.

Carolyn Manno hosts from  Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte join her from Burton’s Garage. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Pete Pistone also joins the show for his weekly appearance.

On today’s episode:

· NASCAR took a trip down memory lane at Darlington with its official throwback weekend paying tribute to the late 1980s. Denny Hamlin overcame a pit road miscue and erased a large deficit to earn his second win in the Southern 500. We’ll hear from Denny on his big win.

· The playoffs are nearly here for all three national touring series, and the pressure is on! Pete Pistone of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio joins us to discuss the controversial finish in Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race in Canada. Was Austin Cindric’s winning pass of Kaz Grala over the line? What if that would happen Saturday night in the Monster Energy Series regular season finale at Richmond? Our experts weigh in.

· We’ll look back at a memorable Southern 500 from the perspective of the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters with today’s edition of Scan All: Darlington.

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

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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