Austin Cindric won his career first oval race at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday night and answered it with the most dominant win of his career in Friday night’s Alsco 300, the second half of the Bluegrass state NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader.
Cindric led 130 of the 200 laps in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford – nearly doubling the most laps he’s ever led in a race – and finished 2.262-seconds ahead of fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe. It marks the first time a driver has won NASCAR national series races on consecutive nights since Richard Petty did it in 1971.
“I’m just so excited, this is all a credit to my team,” Cindric said. “What we did tonight was really impressive because we came with one set-up last night and won the race and came with another set-up tonight and won again. That happens at the shop and with the guys on the box so all the credit to them, I’m the lucky one who gets to drive.”
Kaulig Racing teammates Justin Haley and Ross Chastain finished third and fourth, followed by JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier. Anthony Alfredo, Noah Gragson, Michael Annett, Daniel Hemric and Riley Herbst rounded out the top 10.
As the laps led total indicates, this was the most dominant victory of the 21-year old Cindric’s career – both in laps out front and the way he did it. He was leading the field by almost 12-seconds when a caution came out with 22 laps remaining for an incident between Brandon Jones and Hemric, who were running second and third at the time.
Both Jones and Hemric hit the wall racing hard side-by-side for second place. Hemric was able to continue but Jones’ car was badly damaged.
The front-runners opted to pit during the ensuing caution period and Cindric won the race off pit road, holding the point for the remaining 13-lap green flag run on the 1.5-mile track.
As Cindric was celebrating the fourth win of his career on the front-straight, however, Gragson and 12th place finisher Harrison Burton were involved in a pushing match by their parked cars. The two collided in the final laps, both brushing the wall before continuing on – a top-10 for Gragson but a 12th place finish for Burton’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Team members pulled the drivers apart and both spoke on FS1’s live telecast afterward.
Burton, 19, indicated it was not the first time Gragson, 21, had derailed a finishing position for him and conceded the physical altercation was just a matter of frustration. He had been on pace for a top-5 finish before the contact.
“He put us in fence at Charlotte and now here,” Burton said. “I had a lot of people coming up to me afterwards telling that [confrontation] was a long time coming.”
“I was just frustrated,” he said.
For his part, Gragson said he needed to go back and look at race replays to see exactly what transpired.
“We’re all racing hard,” he said. “I really don’t have a comment, haven’t seen everything that happened [on track].”
Beyond Cindric’s Kentucky domination, perhaps the night’s next most impressive work came from the veteran Allgaier, who rallied to his fifth-place finish after going a lap down almost immediately on the night. A piece of Kyle Weatherman’s wrecked Chevrolet impacted Allgaier’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on the opening lap of the race. He had to come in for repairs and spent the night rallying to his first top-5 in more than a month.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!