SPARTA, Ky. – After falling just short on multiple occasions, Austin Cindric earned his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory on an oval Thursday evening at Kentucky Speedway.
The triumph in the Shady Rays 200 is Cindric’s third in the Xfinity Series, but his first two victories both came on road courses.
“I’ve known that we’ve been able to do it for awhile,” Cindric said about winning on an oval. “We’ve obviously had some extremely fast race cars over the last two months. That’s something to be extremely proud of. That goes into the prep work all the way back at the shop to obviously my prep work and being fast right off the truck.
“We’ve been able to do both of those things and to be able to close it out now, it’s such a relief. It doesn’t even feel like success, it feels like a relief.”
Cindric spent the first two stages chasing polesitter Noah Gragson, who used his track position to maintain the lead throughout the opening stages. A caution for a crash involving Brandon Brown with 46 laps left led to a round of pit stops for the leaders, with Justin Haley and Jeremy Clements opting for two tires to move to the front.
Behind Haley and Clements, Gragson came off pit road in third and Cindric exited in fourth. That would prove pivotal for Cindric, who would restart the top side of the track. Using the top of the track to his advantage, Cindric rocketed up to second during the restart with 40 laps left. He then took the lead from Haley out of turn four on the same lap.
Now out front in clean air, Cindric pulled away from the field until another caution flag waved with 32 laps left when Ross Chastain and Brett Moffitt came together. Racing resumed with 27 laps left and Haley got a great jump on the bottom to briefly regain the lead from Cindric.
Cindric quickly responded, regaining the lead down the backstretch going into turn three. He was quickly followed by Chase Briscoe, who dispatched Haley to take second on the next lap. Cindric continued to pull away from the field, but the caution flag waved again with 15 laps left when Colby Howard crashed in turn one.
The race resumed again with nine laps left with Cindric and Briscoe on the front row. Briscoe gave it his best shot in turns one and two to try and take the lead from Cindric, but Cindric managed to pull clear down the backstretch.
Again Cindric began to pull away, but the caution flag again intervened when Harrison Burton spun in turn three with four laps left to bring out the final caution flag of the evening. That set up an overtime green-white-checkered restart with Cindric leading Briscoe to the green flag.
“I didn’t want the final restart, I didn’t want the one before that or the one before that,” Cindric said. “Usually in NASCAR in racing you get them, so you can’t complain and you’ve got to rise to the occasion.”
Cindric and Briscoe engaged in a brief battle on the restart as they entered turn one, but Briscoe’s Ford got loose and he chased his car up the track. That allowed Cindric to scamper away as the battle waged behind him for second.
The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford was all alone at the front of the field on the final lap when a multi-car crash brought out the caution flag, giving Cindric his first Xfinity Series victory of the season, third of his career and first on an oval.
“I’m just so relieved to get this Snap-on Ford Mustang in victory lane,” Cindric said. “All these guys, they do so much for me as well as Ford Performance and all of our partners. I’m so excited about that and I’m excited to have another shot again to try tomorrow.”
Riley Herbst was able to take advantage of the overtime restart to earn a career-best runner-up finish. Chastain recovered from his incident with Moffitt to finish third, followed by Briscoe and Michael Annett.
Anthony Alfredo, Justin Haley, Kyle Weatherman, Ryan Sieg and Moffitt completed the top-10.
The top-15 finishers from Thursday’s race will be inverted for Friday’s 300-mile event at the 1.5-mile track. Myatt Snider, Thursday’s 15th-place finisher, will start on the pole alongside Jesse Little.
Justin Allgaier, who was one of three drivers involved in the last-lap crash that brought out the final caution flag, was transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation. The other drivers involved, Timmy Hill and Ronnie Bassett Jr., were checked and released from the infield care center.
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