The majority of NASCAR pundits out there knew Austin Cindric was excellent on road courses. After he won the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway, he became much more dangerous on every racetrack.
Cindric just became even more dangerous, as the No. 22 driver for Team Penske solidified his repeat championship bid after winning at the track once more Saturday evening.
The win is Cindric’s 10th of his Xfinity career. The win is also the second time Cindric has won back-to-back races at the same track (the first time happened at Kentucky Speedway on July 9 and 10, 2020).
The Xfinity field closed out its brief west coast run in the desert at Phoenix Raceway on a crisp Saturday afternoon, and while the field was ripe with parity, the usual drivers quickly found themselves atop the field at the start of the race.
It was all business for Cindric right from the start, as the No. 22 for Team Penske took the inside lane through turn three and quickly compiled a 1.30+ second lead over Daniel Hemric through the first 10 laps of the race.
Middle-of-the-pack action quickly became the story of the race through its early stages, as three-wide action helped net Brett Moffitt, Myatt Snider and Ty Gibbs multiple positions from their starting point at the onset of the lap 20 competition caution.
Even still, Cindric took home the cake.
At the conclusion of the competition caution, Cindric continued to dominate and led all laps through the end of stage one to net him his fourth stage win of the season. Justin Allgaier, after starting the race in 12th, found his way into the top six, while Gibbs, in only his second Xfinity start found himself in 10th.
While the expectancies and surprises were showing off through the first third of the race, Hemric quietly put together another strong run after finishing in the top five in his previous three races. The 30-year-old for Joe Gibbs Racing started atop the field at the beginning of stage two, and while the No. 18 Toyota was able to capitalize right outside the gate, the same could not be said for Noah Gragson, as the 22-year-old JR Motorsports driver succumbed to a fire on lap 67 to end his day.
Hemric, similarly to Cindric during the first stage, dominated the field and picked up his second stage win of the season. During the ensuing battle off pit road, though, Allgaier held strong and won the pit road race over both drivers. Allgaier then went on to lead the next 31 laps until a collection of cautions (including that of Harrison Burton with 67 to go) brought a familiar face in Cindric back out on top.
Phoenix Raceway would not be Phoenix Raceway without the race slowing down, right?
A handful of additional cautions initially saw Brandon Jones out atop the field, but A.J. Allmendinger dumped Jones with 35 to go to bring out the 10th caution of the day.
Despite the sun setting at sharp angles around several of the turns, the reigning Xfinity Champion in Cindric collected a significant jump on the lap 29 restart. While the likes of Allgaier, Hemric, Gibbs, and an Alex Labbe caution with less than 10 to go made it interesting, Cindric’s speed on the restart helped vault him the win.
Gibbs finished second. In two career Xfinity races, Gibbs has now finished inside the top two in both of them (he won at the Daytona Road Course on Feb. 20).
Brandon Brown and Riley Herbst finished third and fourth, respectively. Both finishes are the highest for both drivers so far this season.
Despite skidding into the wall on the lap two restart, Allgaier finished eighth. The finish is Allgaier’s highest so far this season and is also his first inside the top 10.
Gragson finished 39th. The finish is Gragson’s worst in his 74-race Xfinity career.
Bayley Currey finished seventh, which marks his best finish in the Xfinity Series and first career top-10 finish.
The Xfinity Series will head back east and race at Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend. Coverage will begin at 5:00 p.m. EST on FS1.