WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Austin Cindric outdueled A.J. Allmendinger in an epic run to the finish to score his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory during Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen Int’l.
A multi-car accident in turn one on a lap-72 restart set up a seven-lap dash to the checkered flag, and though Allmendinger got the measure of the field when the green flag waved, Cindric chased him down.
The 20-year-old utilized 19-lap fresher Goodyear tires to get to Allmendinger’s rear bumper coming to two laps to go, then nudged him out of the way in the Carousel to take command for the first time.
Allmendinger rallied back, giving CIndric a tap in return at turn six to reclaim the lead, but drove wide off the final corner and allowed Cindric to get the top spot back for good underneath the white flag.
Officially, Cindric led the final two laps for his maiden Xfinity Series victory in his 54th series start.
The son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric was so enthralled with his breakthrough performance that he grabbed NASCAR on NBC victory lane reporter Rutledge Wood in a bear hug and lifted him off the ground briefly before gathering his thoughts for an emotional interview.
“Oh my God, we did it! Yes! This is awesome!” Cindric exclaimed on the frontstretch. “I’m so pumped. That was fun. That’s why fans come to watch at this track. A.J. was pumped after the race; he gave me the hang loose sign. He’s such a cool guy and it’s so cool to have raced him for my first win. What a day.”
Allmendinger hung on to originally cross the line in second, 1.168 seconds adrift of Cindric at the checkered flag, but was disqualified after the race for failing technical inspection.
“I think his tires made all the difference,” Allmendinger admitted. “We were pretty close on speed overall. I just knew I had to get the lead on the restart, and when I didn’t see anyone behind me, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is gonna work out,’ and then I saw the 22 (Cindric) … and that was the one car I didn’t want to see behind me. Congrats to Austin, though. He went in there and nudged me, and that was fair. I went back in and nudged him. You race how you get raced, and we were clean but hard.
“He deserved it; he drove the wheels off that thing at the end,” Allmendinger added. “I was out of tires. That was all I had. I’m just disappointed, because I wanted to win it so bad. We were close.”
As a result of Allmendinger’s disqualification, Christopher Bell was credited with second place, followed by Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick.
Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer, Michael Annett, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece completed the top 10.
Kyle Busch started from the pole and won the first stage with a wire-to-wire effort, but went out on lap 35 with suspension failure moments after charging through the field and briefly retaking the race lead.