Cindric notches first win of 2020 at Kentucky Speedway

In an overtime shootout, Austin Cindric scored his first elusive NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the season in the Shady Rays 200 at Kentucky Speedway, the first of a series doubleheader at the Bluegrass State, after powering away from Chase Briscoe and stabilizing a half-second lead over rookie Riley Herbst at the moment of caution due to a last-lap multi-car wreck. The victory was Cindric’s third of his Xfinity Series career and his first on an oval-shaped track after collecting his first two series victories in back-to-back races in August 2019 at Watkins Glen International and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The starting lineup was based on a random draw. Noah Gragson drew the pole position and was joined on the front row with Ross Chastain. The No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet team driven by Ronnie Bassett Jr. failed pre-race inspection twice, which cost the team the pit selection for next weekend’s race, but the driver and the team retained their 22nd-starting spot for the first Kentucky race. Mason Massey and Bayley Currey, however, dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.

While the field rolled off of pit road for the pace laps, rookie Anthony Alfredo remained on pit road as his crew addressed a steering issue to the No. 21 Alsco/Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Because it was a safety issue being addressed, Alfredo was allowed to retain his 11th-starting spot.


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When the green flag waved and the race started, Gragson shot to an early lead on the bottom lane. In Turn 1, however, Jeb Burton slipped on the bottom, spun and was T-boned by Brandon Jones as the rear tires of Burton’s No. 8 Rocky Boots/JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro briefly came off the ground following the contact. The first caution of the race was immediately displayed. Burton was able to continue the race following repairs to the rear end, but multiple laps behind, while Jones retired. This marked the second time in the last three Xfinity Series races where Jones was eliminated prior to the first lap due to an accident.

When the race restarted on the eighth lap, Chastain made a brief challenge for the lead on the outside lane through Turns 1 and 2, but Gragson was able to retain it on the bottom in Turn 3. While Gragson was leading, Austin Cindric, who was in pursuit of his first win of 2020, moved into second after passing Chastain. Michael Annett, rookie Harrison Burton and Chase Briscoe would also overtake Chastain for positions in the top five. Gragson was able to retain the lead when the competition caution flew on the 15th lap. 

Under the competition caution, some like Briscoe, Brandon Brown, rookie Joe Graf Jr., rookie Kody Vanderwal, Tommy Joe Martins and Matt Mills pitted for early adjustments while the rest remained on track.

The race restarted on Lap 20 and Gragson retained the lead, though he was being pressured by Cindric. Both competitors drove away with a one-second advantage over third-place Burton, who was followed by Chastain and Alfredo, who rallied from his early steering issues. While the racing progressed, Allgaier, who was running in sixth, slipped underneath Alfredo, but he was able to prevent his car from spinning, though Annett and Justin Haley each gained a position.

In the closing laps of the stage, Burton gained ground and moved into second while Cindric was left in a tight battle with Chastain and Alfredo for position. They did not have anything for Gragson as the driver of the No. 9 Switch/JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro was able to win the first stage on Lap 30, thus collecting his sixth stage win of the season. Burton settled in second followed by Cindric, Chastain and Alfredo. Annett, Haley, Allgaier, Ryan Sieg and Brett Moffitt rounded out the top 10 in the first stage.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Gragson exited first followed by Burton, Cindric, Chastain and Alfredo. Briscoe remained on track and took over the lead. Following the pit stops, however, Burton was sent to the rear of the field due to an uncontrolled tire violation.

The second stage commenced on Lap 38 and Gragson was able to clear Briscoe for the lead on the bottom lane in Turn 1. By Lap 40, the top-three competitors of Gragson, Briscoe and Cindric were ahead by more than a second over Chastain while rookie Riley Herbst, who started 23rd, was in fifth after overtaking Brown. Behind, Allgaier and Haley were back in 10th and 11th while Alfredo had fallen back to 12th. 

Ten laps later, the trio of Gragson, Briscoe and Cindric were still ahead by four seconds over Chastain, nearly five over Herbst and more than eight over Annett. At the front, Gragson was leading by half a second over Briscoe, who had Cindric running near his rear bumper and was reporting a vibration to his No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School/Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang. With the leaders starting to approach lapped traffic, Allgaier was in seventh while Alfredo was in 10th ahead of Haley. 

On Lap 54, Cindric threaded his way between the lapped car of Kyle Weatherman and Briscoe to move into the runner-up spot. Though Cindric was starting to narrow his deficit to Gragson, he ran out of time to challenge for the lead as Gragson was able to win the second stage on Lap 60 and claim his seventh stage victory of 2020. Cindric settled in second, more than a second behind, followed by Briscoe, who was more than five seconds behind. Chastain and Herbst settled in the top five while Allgaier, Annett, Sieg, Brown and Alfredo were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Gragson retained the lead after exiting pit road first. Briscoe moved up to second followed by Herbst, Cindric, Chastain and Allgaier.

The final stage started at the halfway mark of the 134-lap race, and Gragson retained the lead following a strong start on the outside lane in Turn 1. Cindric moved his way back to second followed by Briscoe, Herbst and Allgaier while Chastain fell to sixth and in the clutches of Annett and Burton for position.

With 60 laps remaining, Gragson was ahead by a tenth of a second over Cindric and both were ahead of Briscoe, Herbst and Allgaier by more than a second. Behind, Chastain trailed by four seconds while battling a number of cars, including Burton. Ten laps later, Gragson was still ahead by around a tenth of a second over Cindric. Briscoe was in third while Allgaier was in fourth. Herbst was back in fifth and ahead of teammate Burton while Chastain, Annett, Alfredo and Sieg were in the top 10.

Four laps later, the caution returned when Brown, who came into the first Kentucky race clinging on to the 12th and final spot in the standings to the Playoffs, spun through Turns 3 and 4 and made contact with the outside wall following contact from Haley, thus sustaining heavy damage to the rear end. Under caution, the leaders pitted and Haley exited first after having two tires changed on his car. Clements exited second after also changing two tires while Gragson, the first on four fresh tires, was in third. Following the stops, Chastain was sent to the rear of the field due to speeding on pit road.

With less than 40 laps remaining, the race restarted and Haley maintained the lead on the outside lane followed by Cindric. The following lap, Cindric moved into the lead, Haley was pressured by Briscoe for second and Gragson had fallen back to eighth. Burton moved up into fourth followed by teammates Annett and Allgaier with Herbst also behind. Six laps later, Cindric was ahead by nearly two seconds over Haley, who was still pressured by Briscoe for the runner-up spot. Burton, Annett, Allgaier and Herbst followed suit while Gragson was stuck in eighth.

Under 30 laps remaining, the caution returned following a late incident involving Moffitt and Chastain. Four laps later, the race restarted and Haley, who spun his tires but received a push from Briscoe, cleared Cindric for the lead on the inside lane. In Turn 2, Cindric gained a huge run to reassume the lead and Briscoe and Burton moved up while Haley was left in fourth ahead of Allgaier. 

Ten laps later, with 20 to go, Cindric was ahead by a second over Briscoe while Burton was trailing by two seconds. Behind, Allgaier moved into fourth after prevailing over a battle with Haley while Gragson was stuck in sixth. With the race dwindling to its final laps, Cindric stretched his lead by more than two seconds over Briscoe, who was struggling for grip. Burton was still in third followed by Allgaier while teammate Gragson was able to race his way back into the top five after passing Haley. Shortly after, the caution returned for a wreck involving Colby Howard in Turn 1.

When the race restarted with nine laps remaining, Cindric and Briscoe battled against one another for the lead as Gragson went three wide to move into third ahead of Burton and Allgaier. A lap later, Cindric cleared Briscoe for the lead and was slowly starting to stabilize his lead by half a second over a steaming pack of cars. With four laps remaining, however, the caution returned when Burton, who had fallen back into the top 10, slid sideways following contact with Annett in a cloud of smoke across the Turn 3 outside wall before he spun his car below the apron. He was able to continue without sustaining any damage.

Following Burton’s late spin, the race was sent into overtime. When the green flag waved, Cindric and Briscoe, again, battled dead even for the lead through Turn 1 when Briscoe got loose underneath Cindric’s No. 22 Team Penske/Snap-On Ford Mustang. Briscoe’s slip allowed Cindric to clear and set sail with the lead in Turn 2 while Herbst and Chastain moved into second and third. Behind, Gragson made contact with teammate Allgaier, which sent Allgaier’s No. 7 BRANDT/JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro slipping sideways across Turns 1 and 2 as he lost a multitude of positions. 

On the final lap, with the field behind continuing to scramble for late positions, Cindric was ahead by half a second over Herbst and Chastain while Briscoe fell back to fourth and was locked in a battle with Annett, Alfredo and Haley. As Cindric entered Turn 3, the caution flew following a multi-car wreck that started when Allgaier got loose in Turn 2 and slipped into Bassett Jr., who spun and made hard contact against the inside wall as all four wheels of Bassett’s No. 90 Chevrolet came off the ground. Timmy Hill and Vanderwal were also involved in the wreck. With the race concluding under caution, Cindric was able to cruise across the finish line to win the race. 

With the victory, Cindric became the sixth full-time Xfinity competitor to be guaranteed a spot in the Playoffs by virtue of a regular-season win and he became the 17th competitor to win an Xfinity race at Kentucky. He also recorded the first Xfinity victory of the season for Team Penske and the sixth for the Ford nameplate.

“I don’t care what shape the track is, if it’s dirt, oval! I don’t care!” Cindric exclaimed. “I’m just happy that this Snap-On Ford Mustang’s in Victory Lane. We’ve come so close all year. These guys have given me so many awesome race-winning cars with Snap-On celebrating their 100th anniversary with their Makers and Fixers program. It’s awesome to have them on the car. I’m pumped. This is awesome. I’d love to be able to come back and do another performance like that tomorrow night, but all the credit to my guys for getting me here. I love [Briscoe], but he’s won enough! Those restarts were a lot tougher than I was thinking they would be. Obviously, you never got out of the gas till he got loose like he should’ve, but I’m just so happy. Thank you to Roger [Penske], thank you to everyone on the team for believing in me. I believe this is a championship team and this is the start of many wins for this season. I’m so happy that it came here.”

Behind Cindric, Herbst tied his career-best finish of the series with a runner-up result while Chastain rebounded from his late incident with Moffitt to finish third. Briscoe settled in fourth while Annett settled in fifth for his second top-five result of the season. Alfredo finished sixth while Haley, Kyle Weatherman, Sieg and Moffitt concluded the race in the top 10.

Gragson, who led a race-high 87 laps, fell all the way back to 11th, Burton settled in 17th and Allgaier ended his night in 20th and on a wrecker after failing to complete the final lap. Myatt Snider finished 15th and based on the top-15 finishers from Thursday’s race being inverted for the start of Friday’s Xfinity race, second of the week, he will start on the pole and will be joined on the front row with rookie Jesse Little, who finished 14th on Thursday.

Following his last-lap accident, Allgaier was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.

There were six lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 40 laps.

With his fourth-place result, Briscoe maintained the lead in the Xfinity Series regular-season standings by 16 points over Gragson, 45 over Cindric and 48 over Chastain.

Results:

1. Austin Cindric, 41 laps led

2. Riley Herbst

3. Ross Chastain

4. Chase Briscoe, five laps led

5. Michael Annett

6. Anthony Alfredo

7. Justin Haley, three laps led

8. Kyle Weatherman

9. Ryan Sieg

10. Brett Moffitt

11. Noah Gragson, 87 laps led, Stage 1 and 2 winner

12. Jeremy Clements

13. Joe Graf Jr.

14. Jesse Little

15. Myatt Snider

16. Chad Finchum

17. Harrison Burton

18. B.J. McLeod

19. Ronnie Bassett Jr. – OUT, Accident

20. Justin Allgaier – OUT, Accident

21. Timmy Hill – OUT, Accident

22. Bayley Currey, one lap down

23. Vinnie Miller, two laps down

24. Alex Labbe, two laps down

25. Kody Vanderwal, two laps down

26. Josh Williams, three laps down

27. Brandon Brown, four laps down

28. Mason Massey, six laps down

29. Jeffrey Earnhardt – OUT, Suspension

30. Matt Mills, 14 laps down

31. Garrett Smithley – OUT, Brakes

32. Colby Howard – OUT, Accident

33. Tommy Joe Martins – OUT, Rear gear

34. Jeb Burton – OUT, Accident

35. Stephen Leicht – OUT, Electrical

36. Brandon Jones – OUT, Accident

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will return for its second race of the week at Kentucky Speedway on July 10, which will air at 8 p.m. on FS1. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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