By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Team Penske’s Austin Cindric ended up third after an early spin from the lead. The Rookie of the Year contender and NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver entered the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course and left on the outside looking in for the Playoffs.
In the final run to the finish in the Drive for the Cure 200, Cindric battled hard with Justin Marks for third. After Daniel Hemric slid through the frontstretch chicane, the No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang moved into third. At the same time however, Cindric lost touch with Marks. He shook off a challenge from Ryan Preece and cruised to take the checkered flag in third, despite having one of the fastest cars on track.
From the drop of the green flag, it appeared that Cindric was going to have a dominant run. After leading the first 13 laps, the 20-year-old driver spun in Turn 6. Cindric somehow kept the car out of the tire packs before returning to the track. In doing so, he re-entered in front of Marks, who took evasive action to avoid the slower car. Cindric finished the first stage in fourth. He never returned to the lead.
“It’s funny,” Cindric said. “I complained about not having too much long run speed last week and too much short run speed this weekend. I guess I’ve got to make up my mind, but I’m just over the moon for Chase (Briscoe). He’s had a tough year. He’s been down on himself and this should be all the reason enough for Tony Stewart to put him in a car full-time, so I’m super-excited for my buddy. I’m just thankful we were able to get a nice, solid run.”
In addition to the spin, Cindric contacted Justin Allgaier, while avoiding Joey Gase, in the middle of a round of green flag pit stops in Stage 2. The contact sent Allgaier spinning before he was clobbered by Ryan Sieg. Allgaier continued while Sieg’s damage forced him to the garage on lap 42.
“It wasn’t a perfect day,” Cindric admitted. “I made my own mistakes. I’ve got to apologize to the 7. Obviously, it was a weird merge off of pit road. The 35 kind of checked up and I was just trying to get out of the way, so it was kind of a bummer that we didn’t have a clean day, but it’s good to come home third and get some stage points. That’s the kind of day I needed, so we’ll move on and go to Dover. I think we can run well and have another good run in our Ford Mustang.”
The third-place finish is the fourth top-five for Cindric this season. He moves from 11thto ninth on the Playoff Grid, 63-Points behind Championship Points Leader Christopher Bell. Cindric is nine-points behind Ross Chastain, who currently holds the last transfer spot for the Round of Eight, heading into the elimination race, the Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway.
Cindric has just one previous Xfinity Series start at Dover earlier this season, starting seventh and finishing ninth.