Austin Cindric Breaks 85-Race Drought with NASCAR Cup Win at Gateway – Motorsports Tribune

Austin Cindric Breaks 85-Race Drought with NASCAR Cup Win at Gateway – Motorsports Tribune

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

MADISON, Ill. – Surprise and elation were the watchwords for Team Penske driver Austin Cindric, who won Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway at the expense of teammate Ryan Blaney.

The race was Blaney’s to win—until the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion ran out of fuel on the next-to-last lap and handed the lead to his teammate. Cindric charged past Blaney at the start/finish line and completed the checkered-flag lap as Blaney rolled agonizingly slowly to a 24th-place result.

The victory was Cindric’s first since he won the 2022 DAYTONA 500 as a rookie, a dry spell that lasted 85 races. Nevertheless, Cindric expressed conflicting emotions after he climbed from his No. 2 Ford.

“This weekend was a great weekend for everybody involved,” Cindric said. “But, yeah, to have two cars in the fight, eventual 1-2. Heartbroken for those guys.

“This is huge for me. This is huge for this team. I’m so glad I was able to get a win with Brian (Wilson) as my crew chief in the Cup Series. You never know when it’s going to happen again. Just drove my butt off, hope for the best.”

All three Team Penske drivers—Cindric, Blaney and Joey Logano—made only three pit stops to at least four for all other competitors. They stayed out under caution for the Stage 2 break and restarted 1-2-3 on Lap 149.

After pitting early in the ensuing cycle (Blaney on Lap 176, Cindric on Lap 177 and Logano on Lap 179, Blaney gained a spot on Cindric and began working his way through the field, improving his position as cars ahead of him came to pit road.

On Lap 217, when Kyle Larson pitted, Blaney assumed the lead, but with the race’s fastest car—the No. 20 Toyota of Christopher Bell—in hot pursuit. Bell soon caught Blaney and pulled alongside several times before engine issues caused Bell to slow dramatically.

“I’m blowing up, I’m blowing up,” Bell radioed to his crew.

But Bell, who had won the first two stages, nursed his car to the finish with help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Three laps down and mired in 34th place, Truex repeatedly pushed Bell’s Camry in the closing laps.

Then it was Blaney’s turn to suffer game-changing misfortune.

“Never thought in my mind we were short,” Blaney said. “One of those things. Gosh, proud of the 12 boys. We were fast. Had my work cut out for me holding off Christopher. That was a fun battle….

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