Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Talladega Marks the End of the Playoff Road for Briscoe, Grala

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

It’s the end of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff road for Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala at Talladega as they found themselves on the outside looking in at the conclusion of Saturday’s Fred’s 250.

Eight drivers made the playoff field, but Talladega marked the final race of the first round of the playoffs and only six drivers would move on to the Round of 6, unfortunately for Briscoe and Grala, they were the two unlucky drivers.

Briscoe came into the race with a two-point advantage, while Grala entered with an eight-point deficit on the elimination cut-off, but different issues led to them being the two left out at the end of the day.

After starting fifth, Briscoe was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop early on due to an oil leak and smoke coming from his engine, sending him to the garage for repairs. Shortly thereafter, the crew got his truck fixed and back on track, albeit nine laps down.

Briscoe was able to stay out of trouble for the remainder of the race, but getting behind the eight-ball early was the nail in the coffin for his playoff hopes as he finished 22nd on the day, eight points under the cutoff line.

“This is just the situation we were dealt in the playoffs and you have to go out here and perform,” said Briscoe. “Honestly, if we run better at Loudon this doesn’t happen. The good Lord has a bigger plan and I am not sure what that is. As much as this sucks right now I am still grateful and fortunate to be running race cars for a living. I have to think big picture but it sucks. I really wanted to get Brad his first championship and Austin still has a shot. We still have some races we can win and that is what we want to do.

“It’s hard to look at the positives right now, but one positive is we were qualifying 16th or 17th in past years on superspeedways and we brought a truck that qualified fifth and sixth, so the guys are working hard.  Even though we’re shutting down at the end of the year, we’re still trying to fight and still go win races, so we’re bringing out best pieces these next couple weeks and see if we can’t get some wins.”

As for Grala, his troubles started much earlier in the day as his team discovered engine issues during qualifying, which required an engine change and dropped him to the back of the pack at the start of the race.

Though he was starting to make up ground and move forward, disaster struck near the end of Stage 1 when a truck spun in front of him and caused him to have to check up. Unfortunately for him, a driver behind him did not get slowed down in time and hit Grala’s truck, sending him into the outside wall entering the tri-oval and causing heavy damage to the front end of his Chevrolet.

The damage was too much to be repaired and he was done for the day, taking his playoff hopes along with it.

“That’s a tough one,” said Grala. “My team and all of the Hendrick guys worked really hard to change that motor (after qualifying) and get us back out there. From what I could tell, I still felt like we were the fastest truck out there. We made a lot of good moves. We were in position to get stage points in stage one. It was pretty unbelievable.”

“Not quite sure what happened, but everything checked up ahead of me. I slowed down. I think I was going to miss it. The truck behind me didn’t get slowed down fast enough and turned us up into the wall and ended our day. I think that’s the end of our championship hopes unfortunately, which is tough to take because I felt like we really came alive this latter part of the season. I think we would have been a contender, but I feel like we did a good job in stage 1 with what was in our control, so I’m proud of that and my guys.”

Even though he was eliminated from playoff contention, Grala noted his team wasn’t going to give up with four races remaining in the 2017 season.

“We’re going to keep digging.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.