Austin Cindric dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race from the Phoenix Raceway en route to his second win of the season. The Team Penske driver led a race-high 119 of 200 laps in going to victory lane for the 10th time of his career.
But, as easy as it looks, it didn’t come that simple.
Cindric, passed Brandon Jones for the lead on Lap 146 and would lead the final 54 circuits, but a caution for Alex Labbe with nine laps-to-go changed everything.
It bunched up the field and without any fresh tires left, everyone remained out on track for the final restart.
That created even more chaos. Justin Haley, Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier all got into the wall on the final restart while Cindric pulled away for the win.
“Just fighting for track position there,’’ Cindric said of the door-to-door racing with Allgaier on the restart.
“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.’’
That allowed Ty Gibbs to bring his No. 54 Toyota home in second while Brandon Brown (third), Riley Herbst (fourth) and AJ Allmedinger (fifth) rounded out the top five of Saturday’s race.
Here are my main takeaways from the race.
Gibbs the real dealI think most thought Ty Gibbs would be just a kid with his grandpas name stealing a seat from someone more deserving. Gibbs, has dominated in ARCA, but he’s done so with lower car counts and top equipment that is far better than anyone else out there.
In 2021, he skipped the Truck Series and moved up to Xfinity. In his first career start, he won at Daytona. In his second start on Saturday, he finished second.
Maybe he’s the real deal after all. Maybe it has nothing to do with his name or the cars he’s driving, maybe he’s actually a damned good race car driver.
Cindric a championship favoriteFollowing his second win of the season, Cindric looks like he is the favorite to win this years championship. The Penske driver is well on his way to a repeat title. Saturday was his fifth top five result in as many tries this season. He’s won four stages now to give him 14 playoff points in only five races.
Top 5 what Herbst neededIt’s been a rough start to the season for Riley Herbst. He’s had bad results but that’s all due to bad luck. He finished 26th and 39th respectively in Daytona. He was 11th in Homestead and last (40th) last week in Vegas.
Saturday was just what the doctor ordered. Herbst, brought his No. 98 Ford home in fourth for his first top five of the season.
With some questioning his skill set and having the start that he had in this car, even if things weren’t his fault, the noise was growing louder. This car won nine times in 2020, so Herbst had to have a breakout year or like it or not, his career was going to be questioned even more.
So to get a top five on Saturday, it was great for his psyche.
Brandon Brown a sleeperBrandon Brown didn’t have a top five car on Saturday but with three drivers getting into the wall on the final restart, he took a top 10 effort into a third place run. But, Brown though is looking more and more like the feel good sleeper of the season.
He finished sixth and eighth respectively in Daytona. He was 11th last week and now third this.
Brown steadily improved all day too. He was 15th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2 and now a fortune top 11 in five tries this season.
Rough Start Continues for JRMJR Motorsports’ rough start to the season continues. Noah Gragson’s No. 9 Chevrolet caught fire on Lap 67. He finished 39th. Gragson, has come home 28th or worse in four of five starts this season.
A few laps later Michael Annett had an engine go down and would go behind the wall to finish 38th. He’s finished 36th, 15th, 13th, sixth and 38th respectively himself.
Josh Berry crashed to finish 36th while Justin Allgaier got into the wall on the final restart to fall from second to eighth.
“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.’’
8-36-38-39 is not a great day for this camp.
JGR has rough endingJoe Gibbs Racing went 2-3-4-10 in Stage 1. They were 1-2-9-10 in Stage 2. But the results show in the end finishing positions of 2-13-13-33.
Hemric went from a top five to 23rd after getting into the wall on the final restart.
Burton spun on Lap 131 and only rebounded to 13th.
Jones was speeding on pit road after the first stage ended did rebound was was crashed while running inside the top five on Lap 165.
Cautions Galore In Final StageThe race was pretty tame until the final 100 laps. There were only 3 lead changes at that point. Through the second stage, we also had just five cautions, two of which for stage breaks.
But, we had six yellows over the course of the final 77 laps though including the final one with nine to go.
1. (3) Austin Cindric, Ford, 200.
2. (27) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 200.
3. (11) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 200.
4. (30) Riley Herbst, Ford, 200.
5. (4) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (6) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (29) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (12) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (20) Brett Moffitt(i), Chevrolet, 200.
10. (13) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200.
11. (19) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (7) Harrison Burton, Toyota, 200.
13. (33) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 200.
14. (39) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 200.
15. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Toyota, 200.
16. (24) Colby Howard, Chevrolet, 200.
17. (15) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 200.
18. (35) Stefan Parsons, Toyota, 200.
19. (21) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 200.
20. (32) Jade Buford, Chevrolet, 200.
21. (17) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 200.
22. (18) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 200.
23. (1) Daniel Hemric, Toyota, 200.
24. (28) Blaine Perkins, Chevrolet, 200.
25. (16) Joe Graf Jr., Chevrolet, 200.
26. (5) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 199.
27. (34) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 199.
28. (37) David Starr, Toyota, 199.
29. (22) Dexter Bean, Chevrolet, 198.
30. (25) Ryan Vargas #, Chevrolet, 197.
31. (40) Loris Hezemans, Chevrolet, 195.
32. (36) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, Accident, 194.
33. (2) Brandon Jones, Toyota, Accident, 165.
34. (26) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 164.
35. (38) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 157.
36. (9) Josh Berry #, Chevrolet, Accident, 146.
37. (31) Ryan Sieg, Ford, Accident, 133.
38. (8) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, Engine, 93.
39. (10) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, Engine, 67.
40. (23) Jesse Little, Toyota, Accident, 44.
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