DRYDENE 200: Cindric takes checkered flag
When a driver starts a Dover International Speedway race from the middle of the pack, patience is key in order to get to the front.
Defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric displayed that virtue throughout Saturday‘s "Drydene 200" NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash race, where he started 16th before leading the final 51 laps on his way to his first Monster Mile victory.
“I‘m fired up,” Cindric said. “I love this race track more than any we go to.
“It is quite challenging to race here. We were able to make it back from 16th starting position today which I knew would be our biggest challenge throughout the course of the race. We were able to pick our way through. Ever since the first time I came here in the truck this place has kind of wowed me.”
Cindric, driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, earned his third Xfinity Series victory of the season and 11th of his career. The 22-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, won the Xfinity Series championship in 2020 and has a healthy 62-point lead over second place Daniel Hemric through 10 races this year.
“We just kept at it the whole time,” Cindric said. “We made the right adjustments on pit stops and I feel like I have learned a lot about this race track.”
Cindric beat Xfinity Series rookie Josh Berry to the checkered flag by 3.796 seconds. Justin Allgaier was third, followed by A.J. Allmendinger and rookie Ty Gibbs.
Berry won the fourth and final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus of the season, completing a season sweep of the bonus prize for JR Motorsports after teammate Noah Gragson won the first three $100,000 checks.
“It was a great day for our team,” Berry said. “We can‘t thank Xfinity enough for putting [the Dash 4 Cash] on. JR Motorsports won all four of them so that‘s amazing.”
Berry led 48 laps and Allgaier led a race-high 94 but it was Cindric who was able to take the most advantage of clean air on the race‘s final restart on Lap 145. After finishing eighth in the first stage and third in the second, Cindric led his first circuit on Lap 150 and powered to victory.
“I think clean air made me look really good,” Cindric said. “I thought we had a great race car and I was able to get tucked up behind people all day. We kept up with the race track and did our jobs.”
“That last run we fired off a little too free,” added Berry, who was making his first Dover Xfinity Series start. “Me and Justin got to racing each other and the 22 got away. This is my first race here. To run top two or three all day, it‘s a good day.”
Allgaier won the first stage and Berry won the second stage under caution after Kyle Sieg blew a tire exiting Turn 1 on Lap 86.
“On a green surface, our car was a good as anybody‘s,” said Allgaier, a two-time Dover winner who is the all-time leader in Xfinity Series lead lap finishes at Dover with 17.
“When the track got rubbered in and greasy, the longer the race went on, the more we struggled.”
The race was red flagged on Lap 61 for more than 10 minutes following a big backstretch wreck involving Matt Jaskol, Jesse Little, Matt Mills, and Josh Williams.
Shortly after the race restarted, Dash 4 Cash contender Brandon Jones and Zane Smith wrecked to bring out another caution flag. Of the four Dash 4 Cash contenders, Berry placed second, Allgaier was third, Gragson finished 15th and Jones placed 35th.
Cindric completed the 200 miles in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 20 seconds, averaging 94.987 mph, with seven caution periods taking up 45 laps. Six drivers led at least one lap with the lead changing nine times.
For Cindric, who will be in the NASCAR Cup Series full time in 2022 for Wood Brothers Racing, it was a joyful post-race celebration. Throughout his Zoom media conference, the Monster Trophy sat on Cindric‘s knee as he patiently answered questions.
“I am not going to let [the trophy] get too far out of my sight,” Cindric said. “This is one I have wanted for a really long time.
“I respect the guys that I am racing around are trying to get to the top level. I know I have that for me down the road but I have to bring that same energy that I am racing against. These wins are really hard to come by.”