KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Austin Cindric was one lap away from his fourth-straight NASCAR Xfinity Series victory Saturday at Kansas Speedway, but Brandon Jones had something to say about it.
Jones slipped past Cindric on the last lap after an overtime restart to score his second victory of the season, the third of his career and second-straight on the 1.5-mile oval in Kansas City, Kan.
“This helps so much,” said Jones, who won the fourth race of the season at ISM Raceway in March. “We started so strong and really were strong in the middle-half too and just have had some stuff happen to us that shouldn’t have and I think we would have had a lot more of these by now if the other stuff hadn’t happened.”
Jones wasn’t a contender for much of the race, racing from fifth to eighth throughout the day. That all changed after a pair of late-race caution periods set up two overtime restarts.
At the front of the field it was Cindric who dominated most of the race, leading a race-high 132 laps. He’d just lost the lead to Harrison Burton with 10 laps left when the caution flag waved with four laps left when Joe Graf Jr. got into the wall and slowed on the track.
All of the leaders opted to hit pit road for fresh tires, with Cindric’s crew getting him off pit road ahead of Burton. However, Ryan Sieg had opted to stay out and inherited the race lead, meaning Cindric and Burton would restart second and third, respectively.
The green flag waved at the first attempt for the overtime restart with Sieg at the point. Cindric and Ross Chastain, who restarted fourth, both got big runs on the top and pulled clear of Sieg out of turn two. Unfortunately for both men Jesse Little spun at the rear of the field to bring out another caution flag, setting up a second overtime restart.
This time it was Sieg leading the field back to the green flag with Cindric and Chastain following. Jones, meanwhile, was restarting seventh and still appeared to be a non-factor.
The green waved again and Sieg got a big jump on the field, but Cindric came on strong on the top through turns one and two to get alongside him. Behind the lead duo, Jones was coming like he was shot out of a cannon with a big run on the bottom to go from seventh to third.
“Personally I had no idea that was going to be as strong as it was,” Jones said. “When I got to turn one I had so much grip. I think that myself and Jeff Meendering (crew chief) did a really good job today of kind of communicating on what the car really needed to have some speed.”
Through turns three and four Cindric was able to pull ahead of Sieg to regain the lead, but Jones was hot on his heels, taking second from Sieg as they roared out of turn four towards the white flag.
Jones was right behind Cindric as they entered turn one on the final lap, which is where Jones made his move. He dove low under Cindric and was able to pull clear coming out of turn two as Cindric lightly kissed the outside wall with the right-rear quarter panel.
Despite his best efforts, Cindric was unable to get back to Jones’ rear bumper, with Jones crossing under the checkered flag to take the victory.
“Me and the 22 (Cindric) have had our ups and downs this year a little bit,” Jones said. “He ran me really clean. He ran me hard, which you’re supposed to do. I think that’s the exact way to race right there. I was a little worried with him on my right rear, but it all worked out in the end.”
Cindric finished second, falling one position short of his fourth-straight victory. Had he won, Cindric would have become the second Xfinity Series regular in series history to earn four-straight wins. Sam Ard is the only driver to achieve that feet, earning four-straight wins in 1983.
“He earned it. He went from seventh to the lead in two laps,” Cindric said of Jones. “It’s like the third or fourth time we’ve lost on a green-white-checker after being the leader at the line. There are a thousand different things you can do right and wrong and you’ve got to trust your gut and trust the car is gonna stick. Overall, it just wasn’t in the cards for four in a row.”
Burton finished third after leading the race in the final 10 laps. Sieg faded to fourth, with Chastain completing the top-five.
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