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Austin Cindric Nets Stunning Win at WWTR

Austin Cindric

Austin Cindric snapped a two-year plus winless streak by winning Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR). (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

MADISON, Ill. — Austin Cindric may remember Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR) with fond memories.

In the grand scheme of the 15th race of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, Cindric did not exactly sneak his way toward the front of the field. The 25-year-old Columbus, Ohio, native qualified second and ran inside the top five throughout the 240-lap race.

Early on, Cindric challenged the likes of Michael McDowell, the polesitter, and Christopher Bell, the fourth place starter. The new, redesigned Ford Mustang Dark Horses and Toyota Camry XSEs seemed to be the class of the field on the relatively flat intermediate, 1.25-mile track.

As Bell drove to the Stage 1 win, Cindric captured a respectable fourth place finish, capturing seven stage points.

In the words of a Talking Heads hit song from 1981, “Once in a Lifetime,” Stage 2 was the same as it ever was. Bell and Cindric were the key principals of this portion of the race while Ryan Blaney threw his name into the fight, placing third.

However, the most eventful portion of Stage 2 occurred on Lap 141 when Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch tangled in Turn 1. Busch’s afternoon was over while Larson sustained rear end damage.

Once Stage 3 was underway, it became a fuel mileage battle between the lead lap contenders. The Team Penske drivers of Cindric, Blaney and Joey Logano went on a three-pit stop strategy.

Perhaps the most critical moment occurred in the final pit stops of the afternoon on Laps 175 and 176. Blaney’s pit crew delivered with a pit stop just over eight seconds while Cindric’s team serviced his car in under 10 seconds.

Austin Cindric

Austin Cindric did not luck his way to the win in Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR). (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

Certainly, the lost time propelled Blaney toward the front of the field on Lap 222. Those precious seconds separating Blaney and Cindric on the track reared its ugly head for the former and benefitted the latter with two laps left in the race.

Before it was a Team Penske battle for the win, Bell appeared to have the race in his hand before engine issues derailed his efforts.

On the penultimate lap of the race, Blaney’s car sputtered, running out of gasoline while Cindric leapt to the lead.

Coming to the stripe, Cindric bested Denny Hamlin by 3.844 seconds. Before Cindric could consider the incredible implications of his win, he sympathized with Blaney, his Team Penske teammate.

“Honestly, I’m heartbroken for the 12 team,” Cindric said. “I don’t know what happened to them at the end of the race, but they deserved to win this race. Ryan has been a hell of a leader on this team. This weekend was a great weekend for everybody involved.

“To have two cars in the fight and an eventual one-two there, like I said, I’m heartbroken for those guys, but this is huge for me. This is huge for this team. I’m so glad I was able to get a win with Brian as my crew chief in the Cup Series. You never know when it’s gonna happen again. I just drove my butt off and hoped for the best.”

Meanwhile, Hamlin, the points leader, counted his blessings on an afternoon where he was not exactly the class of the field.

“No, definitely not.,” Hamlin said. “We had a top-five car. We didn’t have the best today, but the Yahoo! Camry was in the mix, and was able to capitalize on some others misfortune there.

“We were going to have a top-five day regardless, but proud of the team. They did a great job on pit road – Chris [Gabehart, crew chief] and the team brought a great car, just wasn’t quite enough.”

Following an important win in the Goodyear 400 last month at Darlington, Brad Keselowski scored his third podium in a row, moving from 11th to eighth in the championship standings.

“That was strategy,” Keselowski said. “We got behind early for sure but we kept putting ourselves in position to keep moving forward and I wish I could have gotten second but it was a really hard-fought day for everyone on the Solomon Plumbing Ford Mustang. We will take a lot of good momentum from this one for sure.”

There was incredible pressure for Cindric to perform and tally wins in a ride synonymous with winning races. Now, the 2020 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion can look forward to battling for this year’s NASCAR Cup Series championship in three months.

Austin Cindric

For the first time since the 2022 DAYTONA 500, Austin Cindric is a winner after emerging victorious at WWTR. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

“It’s everything,” Cindric said. “It’s absolutely everything and the funny thing about it is this Freightliner Ford Mustang is probably one of the best-looking cars at the racetrack and I’ve had terrible races every single time with this car and it’s great to win with a great paint scheme.

“It’s great to win in front of an amazing crowd. This racetrack does an amazing job putting on events and I’m just proud to be able to do it and proud to be able to bring it home for these guys. They deserve it.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Christopher Bell
  2. Michael McDowell
  3. Ryan Blaney
  4. Austin Cindric
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. William Byron
  7. Ty Gibbs
  8. Tyler Reddick
  9. Joey Logano
  10. Chase Elliott
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Christopher Bell
  2. Austin Cindric
  3. Ryan Blaney
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Brad Keselowski
  6. Joey Logano
  7. Chase Briscoe
  8. Carson Hocevar
  9. Austin Dillon
  10. Denny Hamlin
Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 2 2 Austin Cindric Freightliner Ford Running
2 6 11 Denny Hamlin Yahoo! Toyota Running
3 7 6 Brad Keselowski Solomon Plumbing Ford Running
4 5 45 Tyler Reddick SiriusXM Toyota Running
5 12 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford Running
6 18 3 Austin Dillon DOW/Rivers are Life Chevrolet Running
7 4 20 Christopher Bell DEWALT Toyota Running
8 20 77 Carson Hocevar (R) Zeilger Auto Group Chevrolet Running
9 21 51 Justin Haley MotoRad Ford Running
10 13 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Running
11 9 54 Ty Gibbs Monster Energy Toyota Running
12 16 1 Ross Chastain Busch Light Chevrolet Running
13 17 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Running
14 26 17 Chris Buescher Travel Centers of America Ford Running
15 11 24 William Byron Valvoline Chevrolet Running
16 35 38 Todd Gilliland Ruedebusch Ford Running
17 23 14 Chase Briscoe Ford Running
18 28 31 Daniel Hemric Poppy Bank Chevrolet Running
19 36 71 Zane Smith (R) Focused Health Chevrolet Running
20 24 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kroger Health/Oikos Chevrolet Running
21 8 23 Bubba Wallace McDonald’s Toyota Running
22 27 10 Noah Gragson SERVPRO Ford Running
23 31 99 Daniel Suárez Choice Privileges Chevrolet Running
24 3 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford Running
25 1 34 Michael McDowell Siteman Cancer Center Ford Running
26 22 43 Erik Jones Family Dollar Toyota Running
27 33 42 John Hunter Nemechek Toyota Running
28 14 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Running
29 32 41 Ryan Preece Ford Running
30 25 16 Derek Kraus (i) Kakfa Conveyors Chevrolet Running
31 30 21 Harrison Burton Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Running
32 15 7 Corey LaJoie Chili’s Catch-a-Rita Chevrolet Running
33 34 15 Cody Ware Jacob Construction Ford Running
34 19 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
35 10 8 Kyle Busch Rebel Bourbon Chevrolet Accident
36 29 4 Josh Berry (R) Ford Accident

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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