For the second time this season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series ran a doubleheader feature on two consecutive dates, this week being at Kentucky Speedway. When both races were complete, the series featured a new winner to this season as Austin Cindric rallied from a season highlighted with near misses to win his first two races of 2020.
For Cindric and his No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang team, it all started on Thursday, July 9, when he outlasted fellow competitor Chase Briscoe through a handful of late restarts and cautions to record his elusive first victory of this year’s Xfinity season and his first on an oval-shaped circuit. Then, he came roaring back on Friday, July 10, with a dominating victory, leading more than half of the 200-scheduled laps and the final 43, to win his second consecutive race in a similar fashion to his first two career victories in August 2019 between Watkins Glen International and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Cindric’s breakthrough win at the Bluegrass State, now, guarantees six regulars into the 2020 Playoffs, a list that include points leader Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson, rookie Harrison Burton, Justin Haley and Brandon Jones. The second half of the 12-car Playoff field remains to be determined with the Playoffs within sight, though not scheduled.
With solid third- and fourth-place finishes at Kentucky, Ross Chastain and his No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro team are the highest of those above the cutline with no recorded victories through the first 15 races of this season. The results, nonetheless, have Chastain with six top-five results and 276 points above the cutline.
Behind, Justin Allgaier rallied from a harrowing last-lap accident in the first Kentucky event that sent him to the hospital to post a strong fifth-place result the following day. While he, too, continues to pursue his first win of the year and since November 2019 at Phoenix, Allgaier and his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro team are 184 points above the cutline.
The two Kentucky races produced strong results for Michael Annett and rookie Riley Herbst. For Annett, it started with a fifth-place result on Thursday and he came back the following race to finish eighth. The results kept Annett and his No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro team 136 points above the cutline. For Herbst, a pair of top-10 results were much needed for the Las Vegas rookie, who has had an up-and-down season prior to Kentucky. It all started on Thursday, where Herbst made a late charge to finish in the runner-up spot, which tied his best result in the series since finishing second to teammate Harrison Burton at Auto Club Speedway on Leap Day. For Friday, Herbst was in position for another strong run when he was hampered with a late pit road speeding penalty. His 10th-place result was not only the eighth of this season, but it was also enough to keep him and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra team 69 points above the cutline.
That leaves Ryan Sieg and Brandon Brown in sole possession of the final two spots to the Playoffs. For Sieg, it was an up-and-down week that started with a ninth-place result on Thursday. The ninth-place result marked his first top-10 result since Darlington Raceway in May followed by eight consecutive results of results outside the top 10, finishing no higher than 12th during the eight previous races and despite winning two stages in two consecutive races at Homestead-Miami Speedway in June. Everything, however, changed the following Kentucky race on Friday, when suspension issues and a 35th-place result has Sieg and his No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet Camaro team just 57 above the cutline. For Brown, finishes of 27th and 13th have him 14 points above the top-12 cutline.
The first trailing outside the cutline is Myatt Snider, who finished 15th on Thursday but 31st the following race at Kentucky after a crash. With a full season under his belt between RSS Racing and Richard Childress Racing, Snider remains in contention and within sight of the top-12 cutline by 14 points. Behind, Jeremy Clements recorded strong results in both Kentucky races, where he finished 12th on Thursday and came back to finish 11th on Friday after leading the first 11 laps. The top-10 results in both Kentucky races have the South Carolina native trailing the top-12 cutline by 30 points and with an opportunity to reach his second career Playoffs since 2017. The top-10 results at the Bluegrass State have tallied Clements’ top-15 results of 2020 to nine as his average result of 18.1 through the first 15 Xfinity races is his personal best. In addition, through the first 15 races, Clements has led a total of 12 laps, which ties his most laps led in a season, (2011 and 2017), with an opportunity to surpass the mark and establish a new record of laps led in a season.
Among those still pursuing the cutline include Alex Labbe, rookie Jesse Little, Josh Williams, B.J. McLeod, rookie Joe Graf Jr. and Vinnie Miller.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will return for its upcoming race at Texas Motor Speedway on July 18, which will air at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.