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Austin Cindric wins at Watkins Glen for first Xfinity victory

Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International
Saturday, August 3, 2019

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Austin Cindric celebrates his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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.

RACE RESULTS

 

Finish Start # Driver Sponsor/Make Laps Led Points Status
1 2 22 Austin Cindric MoneyLion Ford 82 8 48 Running
2 4 20 Christopher Bell Rheem Toyota 82 3 46 Running
3 9 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet 82 13 38 Running
4 3 12 Ryan Blaney(i) Pirtek Ford 82 13 0 Running
5 5 2 Tyler Reddick Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup Chevrolet 82 0 32 Running
6 6 98 Chase Briscoe # Ford Performance Ford 82 0 38 Running
7 13 0 Cole Custer GoBowling Ford 82 0 30 Running
8 14 1 Michael Annett Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet 82 0 29 Running
9 18 9 Noah Gragson # West Herr Auto Group Chevrolet 82 0 32 Running
10 8 8 Ryan Preece(i) Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet 82 0 0 Running
11 11 51 Jeremy Clements RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet 82 0 34 Running
12 20 23 John Hunter Nemechek # Digital Ally Chevrolet 82 0 32 Running
13 23 5 Scott Heckert Chevrolet 82 0 24 Running
14 12 11 Justin Haley # LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet 82 0 33 Running
15 15 8 Gray Gaulding GPSPURE.com Chevrolet 82 0 24 Running
16 21 90 Alex Labbe DGM Racing Chevrolet 82 0 21 Running
17 10 19 Brandon Jones First Foundation Toyota 82 0 25 Running
18 27 86 Brandon Brown # Vero Tru Social Chevrolet 82 0 19 Running
19 30 36 Josh Williams Star Brite/Star Tron/Sleep Well Chevrolet 82 0 18 Running
20 28 1 Stephen Leicht teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 82 0 17 Running
21 26 99 Cody Ware Chevrolet 82 0 16 Running
22 24 7 Ray Black II ISOKERN Fireplaces & Chimneys/Scuba Life 82 0 15 Running
23 31 42 Stanton Barrett(i) Horseheads Brewing Toyota 82 0 0 Running
24 29 0 Garrett Smithley teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 80 0 13 Running
25 34 74 Dan Corcoran(i) Woobie Shoes/Threatcon 5 Clothing Chevrolet 75 0 0 Running
26 16 93 Josh Bilicki Lemons of Love Chevrolet 72 0 11 Accident
27 33 15 BJ McLeod teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 67 0 10 DVP
28 22 66 Tommy Joe Martins Gusset.com Toyota 65 0 9 Accident
29 32 52 David Starr Chevrolet 57 0 8 Fuel Pump
30 17 39 Ryan Sieg Midstate Chevrolet 47 0 11 Accident
31 1 18 Kyle Busch(i) iK9 Toyota 35 21 0 Suspension
32 35 13 Chad Finchum MBM Motorsports Toyota 30 0 5 Brakes
33 19 4 Ross Chastain(i) Buckle Up New York Chevrolet 19 0 0 Accident
34 36 35 Joey Gase MBM Motorsports Toyota 9 0 3 Transmission
35 25 38 JJ Yeley(i) RSS Racing Chevrolet 6 0 0 Overheating
36 37 78 Vinnie Miller Pit Viper Sunglasses Chevrolet 0 0 1 Ignition
37 7 10 AJ Allmendinger Death Wish Coffee Chevrolet 82 24 1 Running

 

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