By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
The final race before the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship race resembled a ‘no holds barred’ wrestling match. Austin Cindric emerged from the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway with the final spot in the Championship Four. However, it came because of a late-race incident.
A restart with 20 laps to go put Cindric’s No. 19 Draw-Tite / Reese Brands Ford F-150 directly behind one of his championship rivals, Ben Rhodes. Cindric dove low, and Rhodes reacted to block. In a wreck that mirrored an incident between Carl Edwards and Joey Logano at Homestead last year, Rhodes’ No. 27 Safelite Toyota Tundra went across Cindric’s nose and head-on into the wall. It then slid back up the track, collecting his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton.
Rhodes thought Cindric was in over his head,
“Well, he didn’t have the position on me at all. His nose was barely in there, he didn’t back up, he wouldn’t ever have made the corner, so, you know, just driving over his head I guess. I don’t know.”
Crafton was not happy about the incident, remarking,
“I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I told Ben that the 19 better not finish Homestead.”
To Cindric, the incident was a ‘racing deal,’
“For me, the 27 had been executing all night. They’d been doing what they needed to to beat us and on that restart I had envisioned us getting the perfect restart and trying to pop the inside if I did. I popped the inside. Obviously, he was there because we made contact and it’s a really tough spot for the spotters to be able to see because it’s coming head-on as the spotters here are in turn one, so I’m sure his spotter was telling him to defend the bottom or ‘looking inside’ and, sure enough, I was on the inside. It’s one of those racing deals. Two guys fighting for the same amount of real estate.”
Cindric’s Brad Keselowski Racing team quickly repaired the nose of Cindric’s Ford F-150. In the final 20 laps, he avoided two major incidents, quietly guiding his truck to the checkered flag in ninth, securing a spot in the Championship Four at Homestead. This is BKR’s final chance at a championship as it was announced earlier this season that it would shut down following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Cindric felt excited for his chance to race for a championship,
“It means the world. I’ve got crew members coming up to me with tears in their eyes. They put their heart and soul into everything they do with these trucks. I come to the shop everyday and I help out where I can and be as prepared as I can to do my job and I feel like we’ve surprised a few people coming up through the Playoffs and I’m here to keep on surprising people. That’s my job. I’m the last rookie left. We’ve got to go give it hell and we’ve got some really good pieces coming to Homestead, so I’m really excited about that. All the guys at the shop are super-pumped. It’s amazing. These group of guys, they said they were shutting down and they just work harder. It’s an honor for me to be a part of it and hopefully we can pull it off at Homestead.”
This was Cindric’s 15th top-10 finish of the season. On his journey to the Championship Four, Cindric earned one victory, seven top-fives, 15 top-10s, and one pole position in 22 races. The Ford EcoBoost 200 will mark his first trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway where he hopes that a victory will allow BKR to go out with a bang.
— NASCAR Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) November 11, 2017