In his 53rd start, Austin Cindric captured his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series Victory on Saturday.
While Cindric is strong on road courses, Watkins Glen remains a challenge for all drivers, but it was more than just the course that needed to be beat in order for Cindric to go to victory lane.
Austin Cindric Snags First Victory, wins Xfinity at Watkins Glen
When the Zippo 200 went green, all eyes were on Kyle Busch as the obvious choice to win the race. Not only did he win the pole by .67, Busch dominated the first stage, leading all 20 laps.
It seemed everyone was running for 2nd place, until Busch jumped the rumble strips hard while battling Ryan Blaney for the lead, causing a suspension issue that put him out of the race with a 32nd place finish.
From there the race was on, but Cindric and AJ Allmendinger appeared to have control over the race. Allmendinger led stage two, and was the leader when the caution came out with 10 to go for several cars making contact in turn one.
On the restart, Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier made contact, almost spinning Bell completely around. As this stacked up the field, Allmendinger and Cindric stayed clear and ran away.
As the laps wore down, Cindric closed the gap from over 1.5 seconds, and began a battle of swapping the lead several times in the remaining laps. Cindric put the bumper to Allmendinger, who ultimately returned the favor, but it affected neither driver too much.
When it was all set and done, Cindric walked away on the final lap to cross the finish line 1.168 seconds over Allmendinger to capture his first Xfinity Series victory. The first, coming in the Truck Series at another road course, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, in 2017.
After an important save, Bell brought it home in third. Allgaier and Ryan Blaney finished out the top-five.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Mid-Ohio Road Course next week, which should be another strong race for Cindric.
UPDATE: The #10 Allmendinger failed post-race inspection for rear-height violation. He will be credited with a 37th-place finish.
Six Races Until The Playoffs
Although there is still a decent amount of races until the playoffs kick off, the grid is set with a couple exceptions.
With Cindric’s win, he has clinched his spot, which was already almost guaranteed by being 5th in the standings.
Brandon Jones is the last driver in the playoff grid, but has that spot secured by 102 points over Gray Gaulding. Jones would most likely make the playoffs, however, with two road course races left in play, anything can happen– and that is exactly what Jeremy Clements, who won at Road America in 2017, hopes for. Clements is 147 points behind the cutoff, but a win would change that.
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Grid|
|Wildcard Standings (no wins)||Cutoff|
|10||John H. Nemechek||+172|
|16||Ray Black Jr.||-221|