Austin Cindric was Dale Earnhardt while Kaz Grala played the role of Terry Labonte. And Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (aka Mosport) was Bristol Motor Speedway in 1999 when the No. 3 punted the No. 5 for the win.
Or for something more relevant, Cindric is the boy driving the power wheels car that runs over his brother in the video and GIF you’ve seen all around the internet. Whatever way you choose to look at it, Cindric took what he wanted Sunday afternoon at CTMP, and it came at the expense of Grala.
Until that moment, I wasn’t convinced there would ever be a clear-cut case of a driver racing his competition differently when it came to who did and didn’t have a win. Cindric needed a win to clinch a spot in the Camping World Truck Series playoffs. Grala is already locked in with a victory earlier this season.
Even before the two made contact, it was clear only one of them was going to make it back to the start/finish line unscathed. And I’m fine with that.
Do you agree with this last-lap move?
RT to congratulate Austin Cindric on his first career NASCAR Truck Series WIN! pic.twitter.com/gDc9HLV6xQ
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) September 3, 2017
Was Cindric’s move dirty? Perhaps. Was it shocking? Not at all, especially when considering what was at stake for the Brad Keselowski Racing driver and how finishes at the Canadian road course have played out in the past.
Have we already forgotten John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer bumping, pushing, and shoving their way through the frontstretch grass last season? What about Chase Elliott undeniably dumping Ty Dillon, sending him nose-first into the tire wall off the final corner in 2013?
Elliott openly admitted in victory lane that day he had to do what he had to do because chances to win don’t come often. It was an attitude and a move some have said there isn’t enough of in NASCAR these days. What made Cindric’s move and response all the better was that the 19-year-old owned it in his post-race interview.
“Everyone’s watched this race many years past; everyone knows it’s going to come to contact if the second guy is close to the first,” Cindric (pictured below celebrating with his crew) said. “I raced with Kaz growing up, he raced my [Bandolero], was the first car he ever drove. I know his family, so I know they’re not going to be overly excited about it. But he already had a win, so I didn’t feel too bad about having to do something to make it happen for this team.”
Since NASCAR adopted a playoff system, the question has been posed to drivers more than once about whether they would bump, move or flat out wreck someone to win a race. A win means even more nowadays since it automatically locks you into the postseason or advances you into the next round. Playing nice and finishing second does not.
Some drivers have joked they would wreck their mother to win a race. Others talk around the question, implying it would depending on the circumstances or they didn’t know what they would do until the situation arose.
“That was a dump and run. To be honest, I know he’s racing for a playoff spot, and I get that, but he didn’t try to pass us. He got to us and ran us over,” said Grala, who understandably saw things differently. “Last year, you can say what you want about the finish but they finished 1-2, they were both going in the right direction. I don’t think [Cindric] even braked for Turn 5. So, honestly, I know he’s a great road course racer, and I had a lot of respect for that, but I lost some right there because I wouldn’t race someone like that.
“I’d move them out of the way, especially with as much on the line as he had, but that was too dirty of a move. I can’t get behind that at all.”
Respect is a great thing to hang your hat on, but it doesn’t pay the bills. In this situation, give me the driver who’s not afraid to do whatever’s necessary to grab the victory.