Categories
XFINITY

ASHLEY ASKS…… Austin Cindric

Scoring a pair of victories and 14 top-five finishes, Austin Cindric put together a solid sophomore campaign in the NASCAR Xfinity Series en route to placing sixth in the standings.

The Team Penske driver recently reflected back on the season with POPULAR SPEED while covering a couple other topics.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as you look back on the season?

AUSTIN CINDRIC: It was a good season. Actually, to win races, going back-to-back, poles, lead laps, and be in contention, it’s been a great experience to have this year and work with the same team all year and hone in on all the little things. Hopefully it’s set us up well to have a championship year in 2020 because with the right pieces in place, I think we can be that team or at least set our eyes on the final four and hit the ground running.

PS: What was your favorite moment from the season?

LOGAN WHITTON | NKP

CINDRIC: I think it’s hard to beat winning a race at Watkins Glen. I don’t think you can think of a better circumstance for your first win to race a veteran and a guy that I have a lot of respect for in A.J. Allmendinger. It was a pretty exciting finish for the fans. Obviously that’s a pretty good weekend up there with a sellout crowd. Pretty awesome to be able to do that.

Can’t really top that, but probably one of the more personal moments would be out-qualifying Kyle Busch for the pole at Bristol. I think that’s kind of a personal pat on the back. It was pretty unexpected as that’s his stadium. Definitely a cool moment.

PS: You had a lot of success this year, but what can you work on to be even better in 2020?

CINDRIC: I think a lot of it is little things. I think we’re definitely one of the most consistent teams in the garage area. I think it showed throughout the year and really helped us, but I think what’s going to make us a better team is not run top-five every week, but run top-three and get race wins and stage wins early in the year.

We lacked a significant points buffer in the playoffs. I had a bigger buffer than I’ve ever had in NASCAR, but definitely not enough to really help through the playoffs. Obviously we had the back weekend at Kansas and that kind of ended our year as we weren’t able to win the next two races. So that’s the way the format goes, and the best way to beat that is to beat everyone else. That starts at Daytona, all the way through the regular season. I think we can make our lives easier throughout the year.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

Obviously we had some stiff competition with (Cole) Custer, (Christopher) Bell, and (Tyler) Reddick, and obviously those guys have earned incredible opportunities for next year and it’ll be fun to watch them. I think it’s definitely up to the next group of guys to step up, and I think we have the capability to be one of those guys every weekend.

PS: With the success you were able to have, how much does that boost your confidence?

CINDRIC: I don’t think my confidence has shifted. It’s still the same job, the same cars, the same group. We still have stuff to work on and get better as if you’re not getting better, you’re definitely falling behind. So I’ve definitely been trying to put my best foot forward through the off-season, whether it’s stuff we’re working on or going to the shop, and obviously the guys are working on the next steps to make our cars faster.

We actually have a new body kit with Ford Performance, a couple updates there. I’m obviously excited to see that car on track because the updates there are closer to the current model Mustang, the one I’m currently driving, but obviously it should hopefully give us some performance gain as well, big or small I don’t know.

PS: What would it mean to you to move up into the Cup Series one day?

CINDRIC: It’s what I’ve been working for the last few years. I’ve given up a lot of different opportunities and different types of racing to go do that. The person I am at this age at the level I am at, my goal is not to run trucks or Xfinity for the rest of my career. It’s to go race on Sundays against the best and work to be the best and prove that you are the best. That’s what this is all about and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

It’s been cool to have small opportunities to get a taste of what that is this year. I was able to get a taste and it’s all about working towards that. At the same time, I do think that you have to be ready and we have a lot of cases to show that those who aren’t ready or made the most of an opportunity, it goes away quick. So you have to ready to get an opportunity and those don’t come easy. I think this next year will be a very important year for me to get more prepared.

PS: Let’s say one race weekend, NASCAR says you can bring any three celebrities as guests of yours to a race. Who would you bring along?

CINDRIC: I’d bring Morgan Freeman because someone has to narrate the whole thing; I love him. I don’t know. I’m not much of a celebrity person. I think Steve-O from Jackass would be fun; he has some great stories so he’d be the entertainment. Amelia Clarke, and I like her so we’ll bring her, too.

PS: Do you have a hidden talent that people may not realize?

CINDRIC: I’m not sure I can call it a talent, but I played tuba in high school. I was good at it for a small portion of time but like most things, racing got in the way. I have been working on a project car for the last year or so – trying to get that done before Daytona so trying to make the most of the off-season doing that. I do like to wrench on my own cars. I like to have fun working on cars. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone as that’s what I do for a living. Other than that, I love racing. That’s kind of it.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

GOOD & BAD: 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Season

Another year of NASCAR Xfinity Series competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Tyler Reddick was crowned the series champion for the second year in a row. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: The future of NASCAR is very strong as proven by this past season’s championship battle. The series tagline “names are made here” remains true, as “the big three” in  Tyler ReddickCole Custer, and Christopher Bell showcased their talent on a weekly basis, with multiple wins a piece and highlights to call their own. Now being able to witness these three battle for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2020 will be special.

Jasen Vinlove | NKP

BAD: Although Bell was able to prove himself, the last couple weeks of the season showcased a different side that hopefully does not remain in 2020. Although he was fast, the Toyota Racing driver made a couple costly mistakes. 

He sped on pit road and spun at ISM Raceway to cost himself a win there after dominating early, while he missed pit road under green and cost himself valuable time at Homestead. It did not ultimately be the title factor due to the handling of the No. 20 Toyota going away over the course of the long run, but those are mistakes you would not expect out of a driver who won eight events this past season.

GOOD: While it was fun watching the big three all year, the way the championship went down in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was perfect. Each of them were able to battle side-by-side, taking turns at challenging each other, allowing fans to keep guessing who would come out on top.

Reddick and Bell had a thrilling battle back and forth to start the third stage, with Bell trying to take Reddick’s line away to stop the ensuing challenge for the top spot. Though the highlight of the night belongs to Reddick and Custer. After coming off pit road together, the pair quickly made work of Bell, before going back and forth for a number of laps. From giving each other the slide job, to trying different lanes, it was everything you’d want in a title race in watching the contenders go head-to-head.

BAD: Sometimes it takes a little bit of calming down behind the wheel, and that seems to be something that Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric may want to address through the winter. On a couple occasions this year, being overaggressive put him in a worse situation than he should have been.

Russell Labounty | NKP

Gragson went over the edge at Kansas Speedway, ultimately getting into the wall on a couple occasions, resulting in an unscheduled trip down pit road. Then a week later at Texas Motor Speedway, running just outside the top-10, he tried to make a move of desperation to get underneath Jeb Burton – but wasn’t clear of Harrison Burton yet. As a result, he went sideways, before sliding through the grass and causing enough damage to end his night early.

Cindric lost valuable ground in the standings that ultimately cost him a chance at being in the Championship 4 at Kansas Speedway due to a couple unscheduled trips down pit road with flat tires. The contact was all self-inflicted, too. He grew frustrated battling Harrison Burton for position, saying that “he was driving all over the track,” that he drove in the back of the No. 18, sending Burton up into the wall and ending his day. The contact resulted in nose damage to Cindric’s Ford that was made worse when he made contact with John Hunter Nemechek on the restart.

While it is nice to see drivers who are willing to push the edge, getting yourself into deeper trouble than you should have been does not help. Sometimes you just need to take what the car will give you, and live to fight another week. Despite having talent to get the job done, if he continues being over aggressive, he may be sitting on the sidelines sooner than later.

GOOD: Cole Custer said it perfectly after the season finale – “Tyler—he can rip the top here. That’s about all you can say about it.” Through the year, it was a thing of beauty in watching Reddick do this on a couple different occasions when the track conditions would allow, and ultimately using that to score the championship. 

Ford EcoBoost 300

To run mere inches off the wall and not make contact, knowing a single slip-up could result in trouble, takes tons of concentration and a really well handling car. But yet the driver of the No. 2 Tame The Beast Chevrolet continues to make it look like second nature. 

BAD: Being able to witness drivers battle for the lead is everything that you want as a racing fan. That’s why it’s so frustrating when lap traffic ruins that. Garrett Smithley certainly did not make any friends this past season in that regards. 

As the laps began to wound down at Kansas Speedway , it appeared as though the battle for the win would be between Chase Briscoe and Bell. However, those hopes were dashed with 15 laps to go when they were caught up in a wreck with a lap car. Smithley told NASCAR on NBC that he wasn’t made aware that the leaders were coming up on him, and he was just riding around on 70-lap tires at that point.

The frustration radiated from Briscoe who was quick to ask on his radio, “What was he doing? Where was he going?” It was a reasonable question considering Smithley was already five laps down at this point in the event. 

At the beginning of a driver’s racing career at the short track level, lap cars are taught to remain on the bottom, allowing the leaders to battle as they should have the right to. Knowing that he was already multiple laps down and off the pace, why did he not remain on the bottom of the track? Secondly, it is a little disheartening to see Smithley throw total blame on his spotter for the incident. He is the one handling the controls of the racecar, and should be aware of the situation around him. 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

GOOD: Since the repave, Texas Motor Speedway has been criticized for the type of racing fans have gotten to witness. Some work by the tire dragon and laying down some traction compound, and we may be getting somewhere.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 featured more side-by-side racing than we have seen in recent years, including a lengthy battle for the lead between Bell and Reddick. If you were able to roll the momentum on the top, you could get a run to make a challenge on the outside of someone, as witnessed by Reddick on several occasions.

BAD: JR Motorsports certainly has to be asking themselves a lot of questions after this season. After placing three drivers in the Championship 4 in 2018 and winning the title with Reddick, they were only able to win two races this past season. Oh, and Justin Allgaier made the final battle, but ultimately became the underdog in comparison to the others. What do they need to do to catch up to their rivals now?

GOOD: Although a lot of people would prefer the old style Bristol Motor Speedway to return – single-groove along the bottom, with bumpers and rooting needed to make ground, the new higher groove being the place to be style proved to be alright for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

There was racing all the way around the half-mile for positions all the time. It did not seem that a driver could be found by themselves as if they cleared their competitors, lap traffic came into question. That was fine, since it gave the fans something to watch all night long.

Although the top groove was the place to be, there was a way for passes to be made through the middle and bottom lanes of the track. Just ask Reddick. He started from the tail of the field, and drove his way to the second. He would spin while underneath Justin Allgaier for position, but managed to drive his way from 24th back to the front once again.

BAD: Anybody remember a driver change that happened this past May? Austin Dillon had to get out of the car with 40 laps to go as a result of his ribs getting too hot from the heat, and carbon dioxide from crush panels being pushed in due to wall contact. The team elected to put Daniel Hemric in the car when Dillon’s complaints began. If you know there’s an issue, why would you put a driver in that is also scheduled like Dillon to run 600 miles on Sunday? That should have maybe been a clue about what the future held in store. 

GOOD: Let’s continue praising the good racing – with a nod to Charlotte Motor Speedway. The hot temperatures on the Charlotte, North Carolina afternoon produced a slick race track, in return delivering the fans a show. With drivers searching for grip through the beginning stages of the event by using the middle lane that was coated in the traction compound, to trying to run as close to the wall as possible in the later half, there was a never a dull moment during the Alsco 300.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

BAD: The Alsco 300 could have only been made better if series officials would have been smarter in their decisions. Tire issues for both Bell and Brandon Jones could’ve been prevented if a caution for debris on the track was thrown by NASCAR. It seems that the sanctioning body missed the boat a couple times on Saturday, as they failed to throw the yellow flag late in the first stage for the same reason, resulting in nose damage for Custer. 

As a result, Bell finished 31st after blowing a tire, though probably could’ve made his situation better by electing to head down pit road rather than ride around under caution with the flat, allowing it to blow the fender apart as it tore to shreds. His teammate Brandon Jones made the smarter decision in pitting immediately, and was able to fight back to run top-five late in the race before fading to 10th on older tires late.

GOOD: Everybody wants to see drivers fighting to do whatever it takes for the win, and that was the key to an exciting race at Talladega Superspeedway in April. Those who followed through were rewarded on Saturday afternoon.

From the drop of the green flag, three drivers showed the determination to make whatever move was necessary- Reddick, Briscoe, and Cindric. They were rewarded when the checkered flag flew in the MoneyLion 300 with top-five finishes.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

Of those three drivers, Reddick pushed the boundaries throughout the event. Sometimes he went a little too far, as notable with his contact with the outside wall during the second stage. Though despite whatever was thrown at him, he showed a constant stream of determined aggressiveness to make his way back to the front on each occasion. His move at the end to get the run on Bell with 10 to go, followed by blocking Briscoe, were the icing on the cake for the win.

GOOD: Although everybody wants to be critical of the rules package, the Xfinity Series got it right with the flange-fit composite bodies that were made mandatory for the 2019 season. While a bit of wall contact used to end someone’s day in the past, there is now the possibility to receive repairs and make a comeback. As a result, fans were entertained with seeing whether their favorite driver would be able to drive through the field, like Jeffrey Earnhardt overcoming a spin for a third-place finish.

GOOD: Being able to see passion and emotions – that’s what it is all about as it gets people talking. Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick’s dust-up at Kansas was a great display of that.

“As soon as he put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back; that’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way,” Reddick told NASCAR on NBC afterwards. “I’m out of breath, had a little fight there with people, but it was kinda fun.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway

Although a first career triumph for Brandon Jones and the fight between championship contenders Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer will top the headlines leaving Kansas Speedway, several other things happened during the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday.

Lap Traffic Problems

https://twitter.com/XfinityRacing/status/1185669422075088896

As the laps began to wound down, it appeared as though the battle for the win would be between Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell. However, those hopes were dashed with 15 laps to go when they were caught up in a wreck with a lap car.

Garrett Smithley told NASCAR on NBC that he wasn’t made aware that the leaders were coming up on him, and he was just riding around on 70-lap tires at that point.

The frustration radiated from Briscoe who was quick to ask on his radio, “What was he doing? Where was he going?” It was a reasonable question considering Smithley was already five laps down at this point in the event. 

At the beginning of a driver’s racing career at the short track level, lap cars are taught to remain on the bottom, allowing the leaders to battle as they should have the right to. Knowing that he was already multiple laps down and off the pace, why did he not remain on the bottom of the track?

Secondly, it is a little disheartening to see Smithley throw total blame on his spotter for the incident. He is the one handling the controls of the racecar, and should be aware of the situation around him. 

This is not Smithley’s first incident as a lapped car this season, either, as he crossed paths with Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Hopefully he learned something this time around as it is one of the most frustrating things in racing to see a battle for the win ruined this way.

Briscoe was able to rebound, getting a new rear bumper car installed to drive back up to finish third. Bell finished 12th, but thankfully has a comfortable advantage over the cut-off line in the playoffs thanks to a solid regular season campaign.

Overaggressive Driving

Knowing a spot in the Championship 4 is on the line, it was safe to say that several drivers were being overly aggressive on Saturday – namely Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson.

Cindric has been solid thus far through the playoffs to be considered a legitimate threat by some, as noted by POPULAR SPEED’s Mitchell Breuer entering the weekend. However, he wound up finishing 25th on Saturday after having to make a couple unscheduled trips down pit road with flat tires.

The contact was all self-inflicted, too. He grew frustrated battling Harrison Burton for position, saying that “he was driving all over the track,” that he drove in the back of the No. 18, sending Burton up into the wall and ending his day. The contact resulted in nose damage to Cindric’s Ford that was made worse when he made contact with John Hunter Nemechek on the restart.

Considering the issues experienced by fellow championship contenders and the speed Cindric has shown this year – finishing no worse than third in any playoff event entering this weekend, this could have been his opportunity to capitalize.

Although his title chances are not totally eliminated, he will essentially need to win one of the next two events to be part of the championship conversation. If he continues to let the little battles frustrate him, that certainly won’t happen.

Gragson, meanwhile, stated before the event that he was going to push harder than he has before, wanting to be aggressive and take advantage of the opportunity laid before him. It back fired, as he got into the wall on two separate occasions, ultimately finishing 13th with a car that should have placed in the top-10, possibly top-five.

Through Gragson’s truck series seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he was fast on a weekly basis – but mistakes and being overaggressive certainly took away some chances at winning. It seems that cycle is still repeated. If he had not found the contact resulting in the flat left rear in the final laps, he could have been celebrating in victory lane. 

There is something to be said for a driver who wants to push as hard as they can to succeed, but a line needs to be drawn in the sand. That is something the rookie needs to find if he wants to be able to score his first career series victory. 

Great Strategy!

Through his career, Michael Annett has been seen as an average driver – able to find solid consistency, but not become a serious contender for a championship. 

His crew chief Travis Mack deserves all the credit for leaving his driver out there on old tires, while the rest of the leaders pitted. That allowed Annett to take four fresh tires on a later caution, setting him up for a strong charge to the front.

The call was almost a success, as Annett drove his way from outside the top-10 to third before another caution came out. If the additional yellow flag had not waved, he had enough momentum to power past the top-two and snag the victory. However, the additional heat cycle on the tires took any chance that he had away, resulting in a fourth-place finish.

For anybody looking for an underdog for the championship, Annett and more so crew chief Travis Mack made a case for the No. 1 team. If there is a race that comes down to a strategy call, it may just work in their favor next time.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Can Austin Cindric Solidify Himself?

The 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has been dominated by three drivers – Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Cole Custer.

While it is not confirmed these three will be racing for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it is likely.

However, there are still five other drivers in the playoffs, and at least one of them will also have a chance at the title. The lone question is who?

Now, while it’s been all about the “Big 3,” there has been one driver who has done well about proving himself this season. He is the only other competitor running for points that has more than one win.

This driver is Austin Cindric.

While he may not have the most impressive stats in the season, Cindric has been very consistent, and has even gotten better throughout the year. He started off with 13 top-10’s in the first 16 races, had a bit of a low point between Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Iowa II, before winning back-to-back road course events.

He hasn’t cooled off in the playoffs either; in the Round of 12, he never started or finished below third. If he repeats that in the Round of 8, he will be more than likely going on the Championship 4.

Again though  the question is can he? The momentum is there for Cindric; he just needs to capitalize

This is the opportunity to cement himself as a true contender, something that Reddick, who had a worse season up to this point, did last year. The next three races could prove monumental for Cindric, and could honestly set the tone for his NASCAR career going forward.

If Cindric continues to show his skill set, he not only proves that he should be taken seriously this year but next year as well.

After all, there’s a chance that Bell, Reddick, and Custer are all gone from the series next season, which would arguably make Cindric the best in the series. Now if he made the Championship 4 and maybe even won the championship this year, the momentum skyrockets for the No. 22 team, which again, would be huge for Cindric.

After all, 2020 is setting up for a prove yourself for Cindric, who has been tied with possible opportunities in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the years that would follow.

What a bigger of a statement can be made than heading into next season, than a championship appearance this season. The opportunity to set all of this up starts this weekend at Kansas. It is make or break time.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Cindric Confident Leaving Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Austin Cindric may have missed the top-10 on Saturday night, but showed speed across what was a chaotic night at Las Vega Motor Speedway.

Most of his time was spent moving his way through the field, as he had to fight back from two pit-road penalties, and an unscheduled stop.

“Yeah, we just need to minimize mistakes, I think as far as the playoffs go, I think we got them all out of the way tonight,” Cindric told POPULAR SPEED. “But my guys dug me out of a lot of holes this year and last, so I got plenty of patience for my crew behind me. Really proud of the speed we have in my Money Lion Ford Mustang. Hoping to keep bringing it on later in the playoffs.”

To his credit though, Cindric was able to make the best of the day, capturing points in Stage 1 and 2 with a fourth and seventh-place finish. However, the unscheduled pit stop that came in the final leg of the race proved too much ato rebound from, and the driver of the No. 22 would have to settle for 12th place finish.

Now, you would expect more disappointment out of a driver who had a day like his, but that was not the case.
Instead, Cindric took a more positive route, noting how his ability to drive through the field showed that he and his team have the strength, and they could contend with the top teams in the series.

But, most importantly, that they are much more than just a team that is good a road courses.

“I think it makes a statement. I think it makes the right statement, shows that we’re here to play,” Cindric said. “Not to sound cocky but that’s some of the best speed we’ve shown all year on these types of tracks, and a track that’s very, very track position-dependent.”

The confidence shown post-race could prove to be a very powerful tool for him heading into the playoffs.

Something else that will very much aid Cindric is his seeding, as he will start the playoffs as the fourth seed and have 17 playoff points, five more than Chase Briscoe in fifth, and give him a big 13-point advantage of ninth.

With the improvement shown throughout the season, it will certainly be interesting to see if Cindiric can capitalize and fully cemented himself as an even bigger threat to win the championship.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Categories
News

Austin Cindric collects his second consecutive Xfinity career win at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio: Austin Cindric claimed his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in as many weeks – earning an impressive 3.78-second win over Christopher Bell and former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger Saturday afternoon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

The 20-year-old Cindric had just celebrated his career first win last week at the iconic Watkins Glen International road course and with a huge smile, effusively wondered what may be next for his No. 22 Team Penske Ford as the series heads to the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway next week. Should he win at Bristol he would become the first driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to earn his first three wins in consecutive races.

“It feels so good,” a smiling Cindric said after climbing out of his Ford Mustang. “These guys are the best and thanks for bringing me a great car again this year. And hell of a job by Christopher Bell keeping me honest all day.

“It feels good, two in row and going for three at Bristol. I’ll probably go crazy if I win there. Should be a lot of fun. This is great momentum for our group.”

Cindric is the seventh different winner in seven Xfinity Series races at the 2.258-mile, 13 Turn Mid-Ohio course and his day included impressive feats of both maintaining the lead and high pursuit to reclaim it between pit strategies. He won the pole position by a full three-tenths of a second and held “favorite” status before the green flag even dropped

Much of the race was spent negotiating re-starts and high speed turns with Bell on his bumper or at his door – as well as fending off another road racing star Jack Hawksworth, who actually won in class in an International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) race at Mid-Ohio already this year and made his series debut in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.

Hawksworth started from the outside pole and challenged the frontrunners for much of the race, eventually finishing 15th and leading five laps. He actually won the second stage, which finished under caution – one of six yellow flags for 17 laps on the afternoon.

”I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun,” Hawksworth said after the race. “I was having a lot of fun out there. I had a great time and would like to come back.”

Cindric led 46 of the 75 laps and Bell, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was the only other driver in double digits out front. Bell is second in the championship standings to Tyler Reddick, who finished fourth Saturday. And after the race, the short track superstar conceded he is getting better on the road courses. Bell was second last week to Cindric as well.

“I don’t know about that, but I do know we’re going to Bristol next week and I can’t wait,” he said smiling about the road course prowess he’s shown with the back-to-back runner-up finishes.

“The last two weeks have been really great for us points-wise and road racing isn’t my strong suit.”

Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer – who finished eighth Saturday after an eventful day on track – combined to win 13 of the first 18 Xfinity Series races of the season. With Bell’s second straight runner-up showing and Reddick’s fourth place finish, the defending series champion Reddick maintains a 24-point championship lead on Bell heading to Bristol next week. Cindric joins this threesome as the only Xfinity drivers with multiple wins in 2019.

Chase Briscoe, defending race winner Justin Allgaier and rookie Noah Gragson persevered for a good day as well. Briscoe won Stage 1 and finished seventh. Allgaier, the defending race winner, rallied to a sixth-place finish after a couple of off-track excursions. And the rookie Gragson, impressed with a fifth-place finish after also being involved in some tight, full contact racing as well.

The series races next Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 300. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup star Kyle Larson won the Xfinity race last year.

Categories
News

Austin Cindric gets first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in duel at The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Opportunity knocked for Austin Cindric after a mechanical failure knocked Kyle Busch out of Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.

And after Cindric and road course ace AJ Allmendinger traded knocks on the final two laps of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Cindric—on fresher tires—emerged the winner for the first time in his career.

Following post-race inspection, Allmendinger’s No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet was disqualified for a rear height violation, dropping Allmendinger to last place in the running order. But fans left the track with the memory of an intense battle over the closing laps.

When NASCAR called the sixth caution on Lap 69 of 82, Brian Wilson, crew chief on Cindric’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford, made a courageous call that later proved decisive. Wilson brought Cindric from the lead to pit road for fresh tires, dropping the 20-year-old driver to ninth in the running order for a restart on Lap 73.

An immediate caution for a pile-up in Turn 1 left Cindric in sixth for the next restart on Lap 76. When Christopher Bell was knocked sideways in Turn 2, and Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick lost momentum while fighting for the second spot, Cindric charged around the outside into second place and chased Allmendinger.

It took three laps for Cindric to trim Allmendinger’s advantage from 1.714 seconds to .521 seconds, and from that point, the game was on. On Lap 81, Cindric nudged Allmendinger up the track in the carousel and took the lead. Allmendinger returned the favor approaching Turn 7 and regained the top spot as Cindric was forced wide.

But Allmendinger entered Turn 7 too wide and Cindric drove back underneath to lead Lap 81. On the final circuit, he pulled away to win by 1.168 seconds and clinched a spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

Cindric and Wilson had discussed the possibility of a late pit stop before the race.

“I’ve been on the other side of it,” Cindric said. “(Bell) had been pretty good all day, so it was going to be hard to hold him off depending on which lane he had on the restart.”

The only thing that went wrong was Cindric’s celebratory burnout. But it was helpful that pole winner Kyle Busch had critical issues during the race itself.

“I was kind of bummed,” Cindric said. “I broke the clutch out of it trying to do a burnout, so my guys are going to have to do a little extra work and I’ll have to buy them an even bigger dinner. We talked before the weekend, and we knew something would have to go wrong with (Kyle Busch), but I’m so blessed to be able to be here.”

After winning the first stage and pitting thereafter, Busch had just passed Ryan Blaney for the lead entering the inner loop when the upper control arm on the left front of his No. 18 Toyota broke. Busch retired from the race and opened the door for Cindric.

“As soon as KB went out, everybody’s eyes opened up, and it was like, ‘OK, here we go,’” Allmendinger said. “When you take tires like that, it’s all about getting lucky. If you get a restart where you get by a chunk of cars, it makes that strategy work—and he did it.

“Congrats to Austin. He went in there and nudged me, and that was fair. I nudged him—you race how you get raced—but that’s what racing’s all about. He deserved it. He was on it the whole race.”

With the Allmendinger disqualification, Bell inherited the runner-up spot, followed by Allgaier, who traded hard knocks with Ross Chastain, eliminating Chastain from the race after hard contact with the barrier in the carousel. Blaney and Reddick ran fourth and fifth.

Categories
News

Cindric’s Crew Chief Suspended from Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway

It’s only practice at Kentucky Speedway, and NASCAR has already began handing out penalties for the NASCAR Xfinity Series teams. 

As a result of illegal body modifications during pre-race technical inspection, the No. 22 Team Penske team was handed a L1-Penalty on Thursday. Crew chief Brian Wilson was escorted from the garage and will be suspended for the weekend, along with being handed a $10,000 fine. Additionally, Austin Cindric and Roger Penske was penalized 10 driver and owner points respectively. 

The team made the required changes, allowing Cindric to partake in the first Xfinity Series practice on Thursday. He was fifth fastest with a lap of 175.970 mph. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Cindric Finding Consistency In Second Season

JOLIET, Illinois — Through the first 14 races of the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series, Austin Cindric has quietly been among the best on-track.

The 20-year-old has 11 top-10’s and four top-five’s, which is currently places him fifth in the points standings. When asked what the key to his strong start, Cindric credited the consistency him and the No. 22 team have been able to have.

“I think consistency has been really important,” Cindric told POPULAR SPEED. “We’ve really only had, I think we’ve only had one DNF. As far as that goes, I think we’ve been really strong and being able to at least put numbers up on the board when we need to get stage points every race.”

Another place he has been able to find consistency is in his ride.

Last year, Cindric spent the entire season bouncing around between rides at Team Penske and Roush-Fenway Racing. That is no longer the case though, as he has been able to dedicate all of his time to one team in the No. 22.

“It’s been great to have continuity. I think a lot of things have changed for me during the week, during the lead up to a race, I’ve been able to get kind of a rhythm with my team, with my schedule, with my process,” Cindric said. “As far as preparation goes, I’m not really having to cram so much, not having to jump around town that much. Really being able to generate a relationship with the guys that I work with week in and week out. I think that’s paid dividends and consistency on track and obviously, we want to be winning races every weekend, and those steps are on the way and it’s about that consistency to make that step first.”

The consistency with his team has also allowed himself to apply the lessons he has learned from his rookie season a year ago, as he tries to gain ground on the “Big 3” of Xfinity in Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Cole Custer.

“As I start to learn more, and as I start to come to tracks I’ve been to a second time or a third time and really being able to apply what I know, there are things going throughout the year. I think it’s great,” Cindric said.

This weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Cindric will have the opportunity to work alongside Joey Logano, and he is excited about the feedback that will be received from the most recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“This weekend we got a teammate with Joey, and I think I’ll be able to learn a lot from him from the driving side, as well as either get validation or, another direction that we can work on our cars,” Cindric said. “I think having him at a track like this is important. I haven’t had a teammate that often this year, so having someone to lean on is going to be nice. Being able to talk with him in between practices, get his ideas, get his feedback and really be able to use that as a resource.”

Looking ahead, the Ohio-native appears to be a lock for the playoffs; however, he is still looking to do more before the regular season comes to a close.

“The most important thing right now is to be able to generate playoff points, and that’s winning stages and winning races,” Cindric said. “So, we’ve got to be on it up front, and obviously we’ve got some road courses coming up and that’s a strength of mine.”

The upcoming races also play into Cindric’s wheelhouse, which includes multiple trips to road courses where he was constantly a contender a year ago.

“I feel like we’ll be able to have some opportunities to do that, but also to be able to get better on tracks that we know we’re going to be good at in the playoffs. So to be able to circle back and get ourselves in a good position. Hopefully, get some wins before the playoff starts. So, like I said, generate those playoff points.”

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: MoneyLion 300 at Talladega Superspeedway

Every driver for themselves, trying to do whatever it takes to get to the front of the field with making sure to time every single move they make right. That is the critical to being successful with the NASCAR Xfinity Series restrictor plate package which sees everybody equal right through the field with consistent three-wide racing. 

Those who followed through were rewarded on Saturday afternoon.

From the drop of the green flag, three drivers showed the determination to make whatever move was necessary – Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Cindric. They were rewarded when the checkered flag flew in the MoneyLion 300 with top-five finishes.

Of those three drivers, Reddick pushed the boundaries throughout the event. Sometimes he went a little too far, as notable with his contact with the outside wall during the second stage. Though despite whatever was thrown at him, he showed a constant stream of determined aggressiveness to make his way back to the front on each occasion. His move at the end to get the run on Christopher Bell with 10 to go, followed by blocking Briscoe, were the icing on the cake for the win.

Reddick has often been criticized for his all-or-nothing driving style. It got him into trouble on a couple occasions last year as he threw away races that many believed he should have won. However, he continues to show that it works for him as recall, he won the championship last year for JR Motorsports. Now he could be the perfect driver to put Richard Childress Racing in the conversation this year alongside Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer.

Bell appeared to be in the catbird seat for his third victory of the season, but proved late on a pair of his blocks during the final 30 laps to secure the advantage. It was like irony in watching the driver known for being aggressive everywhere else be almost a bit conservative on Saturday afternoon.

It was also odd to not see a JR Motorsports entry not in the conversation at the end of the event as they have dominated the restrictor plate events in the Xfinity Series for the past couple of seasons. However, Daytona winner Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier were taken out in a wreck together, while Noah Gragson suffered contact with the inside wall. Gragson was their highest finisher in 11th at the checkered flag.

If you are making early picks for the next restrictor plate race, you will want to include the three aggressive drivers from Saturday – but don’t forget about Allgaier. He’s the best driver in the series on the plate tracks to not have a win on his record yet. Saturday’s 28th-place finish marked his first outside of the top-eight at Talladega since 2010. He’s also shown the same ability at Daytona, despite his statistics being up-and-down, seemingly always finding a wreck while up front at the end of these races. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.