ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – When you’ve won at a place Mario Andretti has called the most complete race track in the world, you can’t help but be excited.
Austin Cindric didn’t hold back his excitement when he did just that, saying he was “over the moon.”
Surging on a restart with two laps to go from the third position, Cindric passed Preston Pardus and Ryan Sieg, and went on to win the Henry 180 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Road America.
He crossed the start-finish line 1.318 seconds ahead of A.J. Allmendinger to give him his fourth victory in five races in the Xfinity Series. Chase Briscoe was third, Kaz Grala took fourth and road course expert Andy Lally rounded out the top five.
“I think this is a special race track to any racer,” Cindric said. “You hear guys like Mario Andretti talk about it being the most complete race track in the world. The fans that come out to this place, whether there is a pandemic or not, it is such a great atmosphere and great family atmosphere. It makes you want to do it even more as a driver.”
Cindric became the 11th different driver in 11 races to win at Road America. He also gave Team Penske its first victory at Road America since Allmendinger triumphed there in 2013 aboard the No. 22 entry.
“It feels awesome to win at all the three natural-born road courses on the Xfinity Series schedule with Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America,” Cindric said. “Those are three incredibly special tracks for me in different ways. I’m so proud I get to drive these race cars.”
At Road America, it’s special because it was Aug. 27, 2017, where the 21-year-old made his Xfinity Series debut. In his 85th career start, he went to victory lane at Road America.
“It challenges you in every type of way, especially when there’s weather,” Cindric said.
Speaking of that weather, the race was red-flagged after nine laps because of lightning in the area. After the 30-minute lightning clock expired, drivers were called back to their cars and engines were re-fired. Then, another lightning flash forced another delay.
On top of that, on and off rain covered the 600-plus acre facility. In some spots, the rain was heavy.
In all, the delay was more than 93 minutes.
Once back on the track, there were few hiccups as far as cautions as the second stage nearly went caution free until a few laps remained. During the second stage, Wisconsin native Josh Bilicki, making his 65th career Xfinity Series start, led the first four laps of his career.
The final stage went much like the second one did, almost caution free until a caution with a handful of laps remaining set up what wound up being a green-white-checkered finish.
“Those guys brought a great package and I tried to mind my p’s and q’s and put together two of my best laps to come home with the win,” Cindric said. “I am over the moon about it. This is the first place I ran an Xfinity race and I feel like every time I have come here we have had a shot to win. It feels great to do it and do it in front of fans and a home crowd from Menards.”
Allmendinger congratulated Cindric on the victory and said he deserved to win.
“We got a little bit of everything, some weather, lot of restarts,” he added. “I’m just so proud of my race team. We continually make our race cars better each race we go to.”
Briscoe started the final stage outside the top 15 and rallied for a top-three finish.
“We were really a third-place car all day,” he said. “It seemed like (Cindric) and (Allmendinger) were just a lot better. These last couple of weeks have been a struggle for us but we’ve still been able to run top three. We need to do a lot better.”
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