Austin Cindric earns overtime victory at Kentucky

Austin Cindric won a two-lap overtime duel at Kentucky Speedway racing door-to-door with his good friend and former teammate Chase Briscoe to earn his career first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory on an oval track.

Cindric, who led 41 laps on the night, ultimately finished .952-seconds ahead of rookie Riley Herbst and Ross Chastain to take the victory in Saturday’s Shady Rays 200 – the first of a doubleheader week that will include a second Xfinity Series Kentucky race, the Alsco 300 on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Briscoe, who started on the inside of Cindric on a restart in overtime, pulled ahead briefly, but Cindric’s No. 22 Penske Racing Ford rallied back by and he rode off to his first victory of 2020, securing a ticket to the Xfinity Series Playoffs. It marked a record eighth time in the 14 races this season that the pass for victory came in the final two laps.

“Thank you, FINALLY,” an exuberant Cindric screamed into his team radio after passing under the checkered flag.

“We’ve come so close all year, these guys have given me so many awesome cars,” Cindric told the FS1 broadcast.

“I’m pumped. This is awesome. I’d love to be able to come back and enjoy another performance like that tomorrow night. All the credit to my guys for getting me here.”

Briscoe, a five-race winner and the Xfinity Series championship leader, finished fourth followed by Michael Annett. Anthony Alfredo finished sixth, followed by Justin Haley, Kyle Weatherman, Ryan Sieg and Brett Moffitt. It was a career best finish for Weatherman.

Noah Gragson, who led a race best 88 of the 136 laps and for the first time in his career, swept the opening two stage wins, finished 11th. He and JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier were running among the Top-5 on the restart and were poised to challenge for the trophy, but they made contact racing hard on the 1.5-mile high-banked oval and it cost them both better finishes. Allgaier was involved in an accident on the last lap and finished 20th.

Briscoe, who led five laps and ran among the Top-5 for most of the night, solidified his championship lead on a night he insisted was a true challenge for his No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing team.

“Thought we were gonna have a chance [to win] on both restarts but that last one just got real loose, but overall felt like this was our worst night of the year from the speed and balance standpoint and we were still able to race Austin for the win and end up fourth,” Briscoe said.

Cindric, who was elated with the victory – dramatically planting the checkered flag in the infield –  joked about having to hold off Briscoe.

“I love the guy but he’s won enough, geez” Cindric joked of Briscoe, who passed him last weekend for victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“Those restarts were a lot tougher than I was thinking they would be,” he said, adding, “I’m just so happy. Thank you to [team owner] Roger [Penske]. I believe this is a championship team.”

Friday night’s race will feature a partial inversion of Thursday night’s finishing order. The top 15 finishers will start in reverse order, which puts rookie Myatt Snider on the pole for the Alsco 300.