Advertisement

Cindric claims victory in NASCAR Cup series after Blaney runs out of gas on final lap

MADISON, Ill. (AP) — Austin Cindric emerged as the surprise winner of the NASCAR Cup series race Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway when teammate Ryan Blaney ran out of gas while leading on the final lap.

Blaney, the reigning NASCAR Cup series champion, appeared to be on his way to his first win of the season after fighting off a challenge from Christopher Bell, who had his own car trouble in the closing laps.

Cindric, who had pitted just one lap after Blaney, took advantage of the situation and notched his second career victory. The other came in the 2022 Daytona 500.

“It was like my first time all over again,” Cindric said. “It’s been so long. Even just standing up on the roof of my car, I about fell over in Victory Lane.”

Denny Hamlin came in second, recording his sixth straight top-5 finish. Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano.

Cindric said he didn’t find out until he reached Victory Lane that Blaney had run out of gas — or that it might have been an issue for him.

“Probably the two best cars at the end of that race both had an issue, and the third-place car wins the race. That’s the way I see it,” Cindric said. “I mean, it’s not like I went out there and I took the lead away but we were in position, and this is one of our best-executed races so far this year with probably our best speed.”

The three Penske cars — Cindric, Blaney and Logano — did not pit in the break between the second and third stages, and that put them in position to go for Team Penske’s first win of the year.

“It’s been miserable to be in our shop here lately. We expect to win,” said Logano, a two-time series champion who entered the race 17th in points. “We got used to winning and when you’re fighting for 20th, it’s quite the kick in the you-know-what.”

Bell, the winner of last week’s rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600, had been the dominant car for much of the day in suburban St. Louis, leading 80 of the 240 laps.

Blaney and Bell dueled for the lead for several laps before Bell — just after finally squeezing ahead of Blaney briefly — let up and reported motor issues to his crew. Bell wound up seventh, getting a push by teammate Martin Truex Jr. on the straightaways in the final laps.

“I have no idea what happened — some sort of motor issue — and I’m surprised that it made it to the end,” Bell said. “So glad that we were able to salvage something out of it.

“But you don’t get race cars like that very often. And whenever you do, you need to take advantage of them.

Blaney settled for 24th, coasting around as the last finisher on the lead lap.

“Just one lap short,” Blaney said. “Really happy with our showing today, just I don’t know what I’ve got to do to get some luck on our side.”

Cindric’s crew chief, Brian Wilson, said the Penske team coordinated during the week on the decision to keep all three cars out at the start of Stage 3, but they didn’t share strategy on the final pit stop as they were competing for the win.

“I would have preferred to pit the same lap as him,” Wilson said. “They did a great job of disguising that.”

Pole sitter Michael McDowell led the first 40 laps before Bell maneuvered his way inside to take the lead for the first time.

DEFENDING CHAMP CRASHES

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson were battling side-by-side for seventh on the final lap of Stage 2 when they got together in an incident that took the defending race champion out.

After the two rubbed on the front stretch, Larson tried to dive inside Busch going into Turn 1, but he got loose in the process. Larson’s car slid up the track and forced Busch into the wall. Busch’s race was over, but Larson was able to pit and return to the race in 29th place.

“Trying to race for a playoff spot and, you know, gradually falling there a little bit,” said Busch, who was the runner-up in the track’s inaugural Cup series race in 2022 before winning last year. “He got loose and wiped us out.”

On their radio communications, Larson and his spotter accused Busch of causing the crash by giving him no room on the inside.

ARMSTEAD GIVES BACK

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Terron Armstead, who is from nearby Cahokia, Illinois, brought 20 area kids to the race as part of his foundation’s growing efforts in the community.

Armstead hosted his second annual charity basketball game Friday and his 10th annual football skills camp on Saturday.

“The overall goal for everything this weekend is really exposure and introduction to different industries, different paths, a lot of different walks of life, different sports, networking, meeting new people, connecting dots, relationship building,” said Armstead, who recently restructured his contract in hopes of helping the Dolphins win the Super Bowl.

“That’s the goal — and for memories. Maybe spark a fire in the youth.”

___

AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/hub/nascar-racing

Jeff Latzke, The Associated Press