By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Charlotte Motor Speedway remains frustrating for Austin Cindric following a third-place finish in Monday’s Alsco 300 after leading 30 of 203 laps.
The frustration was due to how close he was of capturing his first-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series oval victory and making it 2-for-2 for Team Penske at Charlotte. More so, losing the race to Kyle Busch on the final lap as neither driver lifted in that intense battle.
“I am really proud of this team. We were talking about it on the drive to the track today that this was our turning put last year. It was probably one of my worst races last year. To almost beat the best in the business on worse tires, ugh. I never lifted,” Cindric on his fourth top-five of 2020.
“I never lifted into three until I knew that I was done. I am really thankful to be driving this Ford Mustang. These guys worked really hard with what we unloaded with and there were definitely a lot of unknowns. It was a team effort. I want to win so bad.”
On the overtime restart, Cindric ended up clearing race leader Busch in Turn 1. Despite having the momentum over Busch, the 21-year-old felt his restarts weren’t up to par which was his biggest takeaway following the final restart.
“I gotta be honest. I thought I was terrible in the restart zone all night and I kind of had to dig deep to figure out ways to manage that,” said Cindric. “Some of it came to overshooting the box in a lot of ways. It was difficult. I would say that was probably the biggest lesson learned, managing the restart zone when it probably isn’t your favorite.”
The pilot of the No. 22 Snap-On Tools Ford Mustang took the white flag in first-place as victory appeared to be in sight.
However, in typical Busch fashion, he hauled the two-time series winner on the backstretch, battling door-to-door until Busch got the edge in Turn 3 due to the side draft and went on to win a wild 97th career series victory.
Right behind Cindric was Daniel Hemric, who didn’t waste taking second away from him before reaching the final corner.
Although Cindric extended his top-10 streak to four and was proud of the entire No. 22 team’s performance, he was still agonized about losing a nail biter knowing his past luck and upbringings at the 1.5-mile circuit.
“It is just the frustration of being so close. I want to win just as much or maybe more than the next guy. This racetrack in particular has given me a lot of grief from when I started racing,” Cindric on losing at Charlotte. “Racing in the summer shootout, this place was probably my worst race track and I got a lot tougher here over the years and it has been no different in the Xfinity Series, maybe more difficult for me in the Xfinity Series.
“To have a run like we did tonight makes a lot of personal strides for me but at the same time I race with my heart and my heart has gotten smarter over the years, but yeah, I want to win.”
Going into Saturday’s Cheddar’s 300 Presented by Alsco at Bristol Motor Speedway, Cindric is just eight points behind Chase Briscoe for the regular season championship lead.
In four Xfinity Series starts in “Thunder Valley,” Cindric already has a pole and two top-10 finishes, including a fifth last August.
“I think it will be a great track for us,” Cindric’s mindset going into Bristol. “We sat on the pole there last year and have a good baseline for that track. I am excited. I like Bristol. I like short track racing.”
Live coverage of the seventh Xfinity race of the year begins at 3:30 pm EST on FS1. The race duration is 300 laps.