Austin Cindric claimed his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in as many weeks, claiming an impressive 3.78-second win over Christopher Bell and former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver A.J. Allmendinger Saturday afternoon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
The 20-year old Cindric had just celebrated his career first win last week at the iconic Watkins Glen International road course and with a huge smile, effusively wondered what may be next for his No. 22 Team Penske Ford as the series heads to the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway next week.
Should he win at Bristol, he would become the first driver in Xfinity Series history to earn his first three wins in consecutive races.
“It feels so good,” a smiling Cindric said after climbing out of his Ford Mustang. “These guys are the best, and thanks to them for bringing me a great car again this year. And hell of a job by Christopher Bell keeping me honest all day.
“It feels good — two in row and going for three at Bristol. I’ll probably go crazy if I win there. Should be a lot of fun. This is great momentum for our group.”
Cindric is the seventh different winner in seven Xfinity Series races at the 2.258-mile, 13 Turn Mid-Ohio course, and his day included impressive feats of both maintaining the lead and high pursuit to reclaim it between pit stops. He won the pole position by a full three-tenths of a second and held “favorite” status before the green flag even dropped.
Much of the race was spent negotiating restarts and high speed turns with Bell on his bumper or at his door, as well as fending off road racing star Jack Hawksworth, who won in class an IMSA race at Mid-Ohio already this year and made his series debut in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.
Hawksworth started from the outside pole and challenged the frontrunners for much of the race, leading five laps but eventually finishing 15th. He actually won the second stage, which finished under caution – one of six yellow flags for 17 laps on the afternoon.
”I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun,” Hawksworth said after the race. “I was having a lot of fun out there. I had a great time and would like to come back.”
Cindric led 46 of the 75 laps; Bell, in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was the only other driver with double-digit laps out front. Bell remains second in the championship standings to Tyler Reddick, who finished fourth Saturday.
After the race, the short track superstar — who finished second to Cindric last week as well — conceded he is getting better on road courses.
“I don’t know about that, but I do know we’re going to Bristol next week and I can’t wait,” he said, smiling when asked about the road course prowess he’s shown with the back-to-back runner-up finishes.
“The last two weeks have been really great for us points-wise (but) road racing isn’t my strong suit.”
Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer (who finished eighth Saturday after an eventful day on track) combined to win 13 of the first 18 Xfinity Series races of the season. With Bell’s second straight runner-up showing and Reddick’s fourth place finish, the defending series champion Reddick maintains a 24-point championship lead on Bell heading to Bristol next week.
Cindric has joined this threesome as the only Xfinity drivers with multiple wins in 2019.
Chase Briscoe, defending race winner Justin Allgaier and rookie Noah Gragson persevered for a good day as well. Briscoe won Stage 1 and finished seventh. Allgaier, the defending race winner, rallied to a sixth-place finish after a couple of off-track excursions. And rookie Gragson impressed with a fifth-place finish after also being involved in some tight, full-contact racing as well.
The series races next Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 300. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cup Series star Kyle Larson won the Xfinity race last year.