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Cindric Spins Late at ROVAL; Eliminated From Playoffs

(Photo: Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

CONCORD, N.C. — When Austin Cindric was eliminated from the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, his mind immediately went back two weeks.

Late at Texas Motor Speedway, Cindric spun to avoid a crash and finished 15th instead of a potential top five.

“If we have Texas go how it should have and not have to pull off a miracle and miss the 47 spinning, we finish in the top three,” Cindric said. “We probably pit and put on tires and have a simple end to our race today, but, either way, that’s not how this sport works.  It’s not that easy.”

Cindric, the 2022 Daytona 500 champion, finished 21st at the ROVAL and ended 13 points below the cutline. Sure, not spinning at Texas would’ve put him in a more favorable position to transfer, but it still wouldn’t have been guaranteed.

What could have changed was the way the final laps at the ROVAL played out.

Cindric, a prolific road course racer, qualified fifth and finished Stage 1 in fifth on Sunday. He slipped back to 12th at the end of Stage 2.

Cindric started to struggle as the race progressed through Stage 3, falling back to 22nd with 38 laps to go and sitting below the cutline. Kyle Larson hit the wall and suffered damage to make the cutline more interesting, but realistically, Cindric needed a caution as his final hope.

With five laps to go, part of a sign blew onto the track, forcing NASCAR to throw a caution. Cindric was back in the game.

After pit stops, Cindric restarted ninth with three laps to go and suddenly had a one-point advantage over Larson for the final transfer spot. Half a lap later, NASCAR threw another caution after Ty Dillon stalled on the track and curbing came up on the backstretch chicane.

Cindric dropped out of the top 10, but his cushion improved to four points. He’d be in under one condition — as long as Christopher Bell doesn’t win.

But, that seemed inevitable. Bell had 30-lap fresher tires than race leader Kevin Harvick and quickly passed him on the restart in NASCAR Overtime.

Cindric was now below the Playoff cutline, but he could still improve a few spots and knock Larson out. Instead, he overdrove the backstretch chicane with two laps to go and spun out, ending his Playoff hopes. Bell won his way in and Chase Briscoe drove from 23rd to ninth in two laps, also knocking out Larson.

(Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

“We had a long shot, but had a shot at it and kept ourselves in the game,” Cindric said. “That last caution really stung because we would have been in without that last caution.  Old tires against new tires.  I wish we would have had probably some better track position and probably do a few things right here and there, but, overall, great to have a shot, great to be in the Playoff picture.

“I would not recommend doing restarts with 30-lap older tires compared to everybody else that have less grip.  It was just crazy and being only a couple spots ahead I was fighting for everything I had.  My driving standards were probably a little bit lower than I usually like keeping them, but just desperate at that point.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Regardless, it’s an accomplishment for a rookie to have a chance to advance to the Round of 8. Cindric has nine top-10s in addition to his Daytona 500 victory and is the 2022 Rookie of the Year.

But, there’s no sugarcoating it. Missing out on the semi-final Playoff round stings.

“I don’t look at this as an opportunity that everyone is gonna have every year.  If you’re in a good car with a good team it’s still not guaranteed,” Cindric said. “We had one guy make it in on points this year and that’s it.  There’s past champions that missed out on the playoffs.  I’ve got a guy standing next to me right here (Larson) that I think is one of the best drivers, if not the best driver in the field, and he’s not advancing on.  This is not an easy format.”

 

 

 

 

Nathan Solomon is a junior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Bona Venture, and as the sports director for the campus radio station, WSBU 88.3 FM. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute baseball content, and he started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021 and became managing editor in the spring of 2022. He is recognized as an NMPA journalist. You may reach out to Nathan anytime at NSolly02@Yahoo.com.

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