Austin Cindric had been searching for his first career oval win in NASCAR for several years. His only wins up until this point were on road courses. Now, he’s scratched that oval drought off the list.
Cindric, led the final 42 laps of Thursday night’s Shady Rays 200 at the Kentucky Speedway en route to his third career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory but his first on an oval.
The Team Penske driver took two tires on his final pit stop on Lap 91 and was able to pass Justin Haley on the ensuing restart. Cindric, took over the lead on Lap 95 and never looked back in beating second place finisher Riley Herbst by 0.952-seconds.
Cindric, had to endure three late race restarts in his No. 22 Ford, but no one could get enough launch off Turn 2 to pull ahead to earn his first win since Mid-Ohio on Aug. 10, 2019 (25 races ago).
The last four winners heading into the doubleheader weekend at Kentucky in the series have been Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer. Cindric, joins that nice list.
Herbst, ties his best career finish in his rookie season in his No. 18 Toyota. He also finished second back in March at Fontana. He now has four top 10 finishes in his last six tries on the season.
Ross Chastain overcame a pit road penalty on his final stop to finish third in his No. 10 Chevrolet. The Kaulig Racing driver has scored four top three finishes in his last five starts on the season to go along with seven straight top 10’s overall.
Chase Briscoe went from second to fourth on the final restart in his No. 98 Ford. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver saw his two race win streak end but also saw him earn his seventh top 10 finishes in his last eight tries too. He was fifth at Kentucky last year.
Michael Annett rounded out the top five in his No. 1 Chevrolet for his third straight top 10 on the season and second straight in Kentucky (4th in July 2019).
Anthony Alfredo overcame having his steering column not ready at the start to still finish sixth in his No. 21 Chevrolet. The Richard Childress Racing driver is starting to find his groove in earning five top 10 finishes in nine tries this season, two of which being in the last three races that he’s contested in.
Here are my main takeaways.
Clean Air King
It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but clean air was key Thursday night in Kentucky. Most races are on the 1.5-mile track. Noah Gragson led 87 of the first 91 laps, but once he got caught out of the lead, he couldn’t rebound.
It was tough to pass on Thursday and I sense it may be difficult again on Friday despite having a little over 200 miles of racing on the surface a day before.
Gragson Sweeps Stages, Doesn’t Win
Noah Gragson dominated both races a month ago at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Unfortunately, he didn’t win either race. He actually was even more dominant on Thursday night in Kentucky in leading 87 of the 136 laps, but yet again, he wasn’t celebrating in victory lane.
Gragson, led all 87 of his laps in the opening 91 circuits, but could only muster an 11th place result.
The JR Motorsports driver restarted in the top five on the overtime finish, but slid way back on the final couple of laps run. This was the first time in four Kentucky tries, two each in NXS and Trucks, that he didn’t finish in the top 10. It was also just the second time since his win at Bristol that he didn’t finish in the top 10 on the season as well.
Gragson, became the fourth driver on the year to sweep both stages as he has a series leading seven stage wins in 2020, but like two others, he didn’t win.
Brandon Jones won both stages back in March at Fontana but finish 30th. Austin Cindric swept both stages in Atlanta and came home 16th. Gragson, finishes 11th.
Kyle Busch is the only one of the four to even get a top 10 as he also won in Charlotte too.
Gragson, lost this when he took four tires on his final stop on Lap 91. He restarted third but fell to seventh on the opening lap of the green flag cycle. It took everything out of him to get back into the top five, but he faded on the final restart again.
Herbst Carries Banner For Rough Night For JGR Again
It was a good time for Riley Herbst to tie a best career finish of second. See, the rest of his teammates yet again had a bad race.
Brandon Jones wrecked on the opening lap for the second time in the last three races. This time, it wasn’t his fault like it was in Pocono.
Jeb Burton lost control of his No. 8 Chevrolet in Turn 2 and spun right in front of Jones. The Georgia native had no where to go. He’d finish last in 36th. His last four finishes are – 16th, 36th, 37th and 36th respectively.
Then, Harrison Burton had an uncontrolled tire penalty early on, then spun after making up all that ground in the end on Lap 129. He finished 17th. His last four finishes are 32nd, 32nd, 25th and 17th respectively.
We had an opening lap crash, but the next three cautions were for stage breaks or competition yellows. From the drop of the green flag to Lap 87, we had four combined cautions. But, from Lap 88 on, we more than doubled that, including three yellows in the final 17 laps.
Chastian Close To Victory
Now that Cindric has joined Briscoe and Gragson in victory this season, Chastain should be next. He’s quietly having a strong year with four top three finishes in his last five tries in his No. 10 Chevrolet including seven straight top 10’s. He hasn’t won since the July Daytona race last year, but he’s close to ending that drought.
It was career nights for several drivers on Thursday. Cindric, earned his best career Kentucky finish. Herbst, was credited with his best Kentucky finish as well as tying his best finish in the series overall. Chastain, also earned his best career Kentucky finish in third. So did Briscoe in fourth.
Overall, nine of the top 10 finishes either tied or bested their career top result on the 1.5-mile track.
Shady Rays 200 Results
- 22 Cindric
- 18 Herbst R
- 10 Chastain
- 98 Briscoe
- 21 Alfredo
- 1 Annett
- 11 Haley
- 47 Weatherman
- 39 Sieg
- 02 Moffitt
- 9 Gragson
- 51 Clements
- 08 Graf Jr. R
- 4 Little R
- 93 Snider R
- 13 Finchum
- 20 Burton R
- 6 McLeod
- 90 Bassett Jr. OUT
- 7 Allgaier OUT
- 61 Hill OUT
- 74 Currey -1
- 78 Miller -2
- 36 Labbe -2
- 52 Vanderwal R -2
- 92 Williams -3
- 68 Brown -4
- 99 Massey -6
- 0 Earnhardt OUT
- 5 Mills -14
- 07 Smithley OUT
- 15 Howard OUT
- 44 Martins OUT
- 8 Burton OUT
- 66 Leicht OUT
- 19 Jones OUT