Austin Cindric makes championship statement with win at Phoenix

Austin Cindric earned his second NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the opening five races of the 2021 season Saturday – taking a .360-second victory over 18-year old rookie Ty Gibbs in an action-packed final race restart with two laps remaining at Phoenix Raceway.

It’s the second consecutive win on the one-mile Phoenix oval for Cindric, who won here last November to claim the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. He led a race best 119 of the 200 laps en route to the win Saturday – including the final 54 laps, holding off the field on three late race restarts. The 22-year old North Carolinian is the only repeat winner so far in 2021.

“Just fighting for track position there,’’ Cindric said of the door-to-door racing with Allgaier on the restart.

Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 Car Shop Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Call 811 Before You Dig 200 presented by Arizona 811 at Phoenix (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“You have to work hard the rest of the year to get here,’’ Cindric said of the good showing on the championship race venue. “So that’s where my focus is. I’ve got my name on the wall right there and the goal is to be back with a shot to do it again.’’

The last restart with two laps remaining was not-too-surprisingly the most action-packed and the biggest threat to Cindric’s lead, but several cars running among the Top-10 on that start hit the wall or hit one another in a chaotic run to the checkered flag.

Daniel Hemric, who restarted on the front row alongside Cindric, was caught up in the heavy full-contact restart and ended up 23rd. Justin Allgaier, whose No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevy started just behind Cindric’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford on that last restart, pulled door-to-door hoping to make a move for the win, but he got loose and bounced backwards, recovering to finish eighth instead.

Gibbs, who won the ARCA Menards Series race at the track on Friday night, drove a steady, if not risk-filled race all afternoon and was able to take advantage of the melee on that last restart to take the runner-up position. In two Xfinity Series starts, Gibbs has a win (Daytona road course) and a second-place finish.

Josh Berry, driver of the #8 Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet, spins as Riley Herbst, driver of the #98 Monster Energy Ford, Myatt Snider, driver of the #2 TaxSlayer Chevrolet, and Brandon Brown, driver of the #68 Larry’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet, pass. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Brandon Brown, Riley Herbst and last week’s winner A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the Top-5 – all taking advantage of the aggressive racing on the last restart. For Brown and Herbst, those finishes are a season best. It was Brown’s career best finish.

Jeb Burton, Bayley Currey, Allgaier, Brett Moffitt and Jeremy Clements rounded out the Top-10. It marks the first Top-10 in the 24-year old Currey’s career.  It was the first Top-10 for Allgaier this season. And his 32 laps led was a season best as well.

“Just disappointing there,’’ Allgaier said. “Once we got to his outside, I thought we had it, but he just got me out of the PJ1 and into the marbles and unfortunately it all comes up quick when you’re bumped out of the PJ1..

“I’m so proud of everyone at JR Motorsports,’’ he continued. “I learned a lot I think for when we come back here in the Fall and hopefully we’re in the Final Four.’’

Resilience, like it or not, was a dominant theme on Saturday.

The final restart was a disappointing outcome for Hemric, who for the second straight week won a Stage and proved to be a trophy contender. He rallied from a tough mid-race pit sequence to be back among the Top-5 when it counted most.

His No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, which had been strong all day, fell off after a pit stop adjustment following his Stage 2 win. Hemric’s race got more complicated when he was called for speeding on pit road, but  he remained calm and raced his way back inside the Top-10, then the Top-5. He re-started next to Cindric before getting caught up in the five-wide racing at the end.

Brett Moffitt, driver of the #02 Chevrolet Certified Service Chevrolet, spins. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

It was a similar day of a strong showing gone awry for the defending race winner Brandon Jones. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was a Top-5 car early in the race and rebounded from an early pit road speeding penalty to run Top-5 again – even lead the race for a pair of laps.

However, while running in the front pack of cars with only 33 laps remaining, his Toyota was hit from behind by last week’s race winner Allmendinger. The damage to Jones’ Toyota was too much and instead of a sure-bet Top-5 and a shot for a second straight spring victory at Phoenix, he finished the race from the garage.

“All in all we had a really good Toyota Supra, looks like I just got run over by A.J. but I keep a notebook of all this stuff,’’ Jones said after emerging from the care center.

The Top-5 showing for Riley Herbst, 22, was easily his best run of the season in his maiden year driving the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He had three DNFs in the opening four races.

It’s been a similar frustrating early season for championship favorite Noah Gragson. For the third time in the five races this season, Gragson took a DNF. His No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet suffered an engine failure and he retired on Lap 67. His teammate Michael Annett also had engine problems in the No. 1 Chevrolet and finished 38th.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway next Saturday in the EchoPark 250 . Cindric holds a 47-point lead over Hemric in the championship standings. By Holly Cain

Race Results

Fin Str No. Driver Team Led Laps Status
1 3 22 Austin Cindric Car Shop Ford 119 200 Running
2 27 54 Ty Gibbs # Toyota 1 200 Running
3 11 68 Brandon Brown Larry’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet 0 200 Running
4 30 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford 0 200 Running
5 4 16 AJ Allmendinger Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet 0 200 Running
6 6 10 Jeb Burton Chevy Accessories Chevrolet 0 200 Running
7 29 74 Bayley Currey Lerner & Rowe Chevrolet 0 200 Running
8 12 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Chevrolet 32 200 Running
9 20 2 Brett Moffitt(i) Chevrolet Certified Service Chevrolet 0 200 Running
10 13 51 Jeremy Clements First Pacific Fundin Chevrolet 0 200 Running
11 19 2 Myatt Snider TaxSlayer Chevrolet 0 200 Running
12 33 17 JJ Yeley Diamondback Land Surveying Chevrolet 0 200 Running
13 7 20 Harrison Burton DEX Imaging Toyota 0 200 Running
14 39 66 Timmy Hill Toyota 0 200 Running
15 14 26 Santino Ferrucci Toyota Racing Toyota 0 200 Running
16 24 15 Colby Howard Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet 0 200 Running
17 15 44 Tommy Joe Martins Diamon Gusset Jeans Chevrolet 0 200 Running
18 35 99 Stefan Parsons SOKAL Digital Toyota 0 200 Running
19 21 0 Jeffrey Earnhardt KSDT Chevrolet 0 200 Running
20 32 48 Jade Buford Big Machine Spike Coolers Chevrolet 0 200 Running
21 17 92 Josh Williams DGM Racing Chevrolet 0 200 Running
22 18 4 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 0 200 Running
23 1 18 Daniel Hemric Poppy Bank Toyota 44 200 Running
24 28 23 Blaine Perkins Raceline Chevrolet 0 200 Running
25 16 7 Joe Graf Jr. Z GRILLS Chevrolet 0 200 Running
26 5 11 Justin Haley LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet 0 199 Running
27 34 52 Gray Gaulding Panini America Chevrolet 0 199 Running
28 37 61 David Starr Whataburger Toyota 0 199 Running
29 22 90 Dexter Bean Badger Environmental Chevrolet 0 198 Running
30 25 6 Ryan Vargas # Hose-Man/Advanced Masonry Chevrolet 0 197 Running
31 40 13 Loris Hezemans Hezeberg Systems Chevrolet 0 195 Running
32 36 36 Alex Labbe Can-Am Chevrolet 0 194 Running
33 2 19 Brandon Jones Toyota Toyota 2 165 Accident
34 26 47 Kyle Weatherman Weicks Media Chevrolet 0 164 Running
35 38 5 Matt Mills J.F. Electric Chevrolet 0 157 Running
36 9 8 Josh Berry # Chevrolet Accessories Chevrolet 0 146 Accident
37 31 39 Ryan Sieg CMR Construction and Roofing Ford 2 133 Accident
38 8 1 Michael Annett Pilot Flying J Chevrolet 0 93 Engine
39 10 9 Noah Gragson Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet 0 67 Engine
40 23 78 Jesse Little Skuttle Tight Toyota 0 44 Accident

Average Speed of Race Winner:  82.408 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 25 Mins, 37 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .360 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  11 for 65 laps.

Lead Changes:  10 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hemric 0;A. Cindric 1-50;D. Hemric 51-94;J. Allgaier 95-125;T. Gibbs # 126;R. Sieg 127-128;A. Cindric 129-136;J. Allgaier 137;A. Cindric 138-144;B. Jones 145-146;A. Cindric 147-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Austin Cindric 4 times for 119 laps; Daniel Hemric 1 time for 44 laps; Justin Allgaier 2 times for 32 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Sieg 1 time for 2 laps; Ty Gibbs # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,19,20,18,9,7,11,10,1,54
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,20,7,22,11,10,16,8,54,19


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