The NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Virginia is for Racing Lovers 250 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 12, produced mixed emotions for Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 22 PPG Ford Mustang for Team Penske. Despite struggling to keep pace with the leaders throughout Saturday afternoon’s race, a 10th-place run to cap off an eventful doubleheader weekend of racing at Richmond, Virginia, was enough for the Columbus, Ohio, native to claim this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season championship.
After finishing in fourth place on Friday night at Richmond, Cindric rolled off the grid in 12th place as the top-14 finishers from Friday night were inverted for Saturday afternoon’s race. When the green flag waved, Cindric showed early speed at the start as he cracked the top five. With the race progressing into a long run, he started to fall off the pace through the turns and he even dropped out the top 10 in the closing laps of the first stage. Having a tire wearing out, Cindric was able to nurse his No. 22 PPG Ford Mustang across the line in 15th place.
The second stage was an improvement for Cindric, who received adjustments at the start, made his way back into the top 10 on the track and was able to make a late rally on a late restart to finish in sixth place and collect valuable stage points towards the Playoffs and towards his lead in the regular-season standings.
For the final stage, which started with 93 laps remaining, Cindric remained within the bottom half of the top 10 and was trying to bring his car back home in one piece and with an opportunity to wrap up the regular-season title. Despite a late restart with 13 laps remaining, Cindric was able to cross the line under the checkered flag in 10th place and to cap off an up-and-down weekend at Richmond.
By virtue of his 10th-place run, the stage points he collected from the second stage and a strong 25-race regular-season stretch, where he notched five victories, 10 stage wins, 16 top-five results and 20 top-10 results, Cindric secured the regular-season title by being 71 points over fellow competitor Chase Briscoe, who achieved six victories throughout this year’s regular season.
“I had a very frustrating day and I wish we would have been able to do more with our PPG Ford Mustang today,” Cindric said on pit road on NBCSN. “We sat down as a team at the beginning of the year and we all wrote down our top-three goals. I am not a big proponent of setting goals but we put something on paper and my number one was the regular-season championship. From the outside looking in that was maybe a lofty goal but we got a lot of speed and a lot of fight and I am really proud of that effort. We can’t have days like today, especially if we get to make it to the Championship Four. A lot of emotions right now but at the end of the day it is mission accomplished for sure.”
With his accomplishment, Cindric, currently in his third full-time Xfinity Series season, became the fourth different competitor to claim the Xfinity regular-season title since its inception in 2017, joining names like Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick who have also won the title prior to the Playoffs. In addition, Cindric will be awarded 15 bonus points for the Playoffs, which will commence at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 26, as he aims to join Brad Keselowski as the lone Xfinity competitors to win a Drivers’ Xfinity championship while driving for team owner Roger Penske.
“[The goal to win the regular-season title] was frustrating because it felt so attainable,” Cindric added. “Especially in the months of June, there when we were at Atlanta and Pocono and Homestead, places where we had so much speed. The races just didn’t go our way and it felt like nothing was going our way. Then we go to Indy and had the same thing there. But then, we went on that run and it was really big for our points and the stats and the numbers show our consistency throughout the year. I am looking forward to [Bristol next weekend] and looking forward to pushing hard and seeing what this team is capable of over the next couple of months.”
Cindric, along with his fellow Xfinity competitors, will cap off this year’s regular-season stretch at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, September 18, where the race will start at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.