Executing the race when it mattered most, Austin Cindric cycled to the lead under the final 15 laps and held off rookie Ty Gibbs amid the lapped traffic to win the Pocono Green 225 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 27, as he claimed his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season in his bid to defend his series title.
The starting lineup was based on a performance metric formula, weighing the driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Xfinity event, the owner points position and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Harrison Burton started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Justin Allgaier.
Prior to the event, Riley Herbst dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments. Jesse Iwuji also started at the rear of the field for a driver change.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Harrison Burton launched ahead with the lead on the outside lane, where he was pursued by Allgaier and the field fanning out to two lanes through the three tricky lanes.
After leading the first lap, Harrison Burton was out in front by half a second over Allgaier, with AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Jeb Burton in the top five. Noah Gragson was in sixth followed by Brandon Jones, rookie Ty Gibbs, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley.
Following the first five laps of the evert, Harrison Burton continued to lead by seven-tenths of a second over Allgaier with Hemric in pursuit. Teammates Allmendinger and Jeb Burton continued to run in the top five while Gragson, Cindric, Gibbs, Haley and Brandon Jones were in the top 10. By then, newcomer Sam Mayer, piloting the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, was in 11th, Myatt Snider was in 19th in between Brandon Brown and rookie Josh Berry and Riley Herbst was in 24th.
Five laps later, Harrison Burton remained in front of teammate Hemric by four-tenths of a second, with Allgaier trailing by less than a second. Behind, Cindric was in the top five behind Allmendinger while Mayer moved into the top 10 behind Gragson, Jeb Burton, Gibbs and Haley.
Just then, the first caution of the event flew when Josh Williams spun and wrecked in Turn 1 following contact from Santino Ferrucci. Under caution, some like Mayer, Brandon Jones, Josh Berry, Michael Annett, Myatt Snider, Ryan Sieg and others pitted while the rest led by Harrison Burton remained on the track.
When the race restarted on Lap 17, the field battled dead even until Harrison Burton was able to clear and retain the lead over Allgaier and Hemric.
With Harrison Burton out in front, a three-car battle ensued between Cindric, Allmendinger and Gibbs for fourth place. Behind, Haley got loose in Turn 2 and nearly clipped Gragson in Turn 2, but both managed to continue inside the top 10 without an incident.
On the final lap of the first stage, Hemric mounted a charge on teammate Harrison Burton for the lead, but Burton managed to keep his No. 20 Dex Imaging Toyota Supra out in front. In the end, he claimed the first stage victory on Lap 20 and his second stage victory of the season. Hemric settled in the runner-up spot followed by Allgaier, Cindric and Allmendinger while Gibbs, Gragson, Jeb Burton, Haley and Berry were in the top 10.
Under the stage break, some led by Allgaier pitted while the rest led by Harrison Burton pitted.
The second stage started on Lap 24 with Allgaier and Snider starting on the front row. At the start, Allgaier managed to clear Snider on the outside lane to retain the lead entering the first turn while a three-wide battle occurred behind between Haley, Hemric and Mayer for third place.
Shortly after, the caution flag returned for a big accident involving Haley, who made contact with Mayer into the outside wall and was turned as he made pounded the inside wall in Turn 1 before coming back across the track. His No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro was then hit by the No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro piloted by Ryan Vargas before coming to a rest near the outside wall. Following the incident, Haley exited his battered car and laid down on the ground before being attended to by the medical personnel. After getting back up, Haley made the trip to the medical center, where he was evaluated and released.
The wreck placed the event in a red-flag period for over five minutes. When the red flag was lifted and the field proceeded in a cautious pace, few like Landon Cassill, Loris Hezemans and Ryan Sieg pitted while the rest led by Allgaier remained on the track.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 28, Allgaier boosted ahead from the field on the outside lane followed by Hemric and Harrison Burton while Snider fell back on the inside lane through the first turn.
Returning back to the start/finish line, Hemric started to pursue Allgaier for the lead while Cindric challenged Snider for fourth place.
By Lap 30, Allgaier was leading by two-tenths of a second over Hemric while Harrison Burton trailed by four-tenths of a second. Cindric and Snider remained in the top five.
The following lap, Hemric gained a run entering the frontstretch and drag-raced with Allgaier to the start/finish line before clearing Allgaier’s No. 7 Hellmann’s Chevrolet Camaro entering the first turn and taking the lead.
On Lap 34, the caution returned when Harrison Burton got loose underneath Allgaier in Turn 1, spun and made left-side contact with the outside wall. The incident occurred as Burton was attempting to take over the runner-up spot over Allgaier. Despite returning to pit road, Harrison Burton’s race came to an end.
Under caution, some led by Hemric pitted while the rest led by Ty Gibbs remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Hemric was assessed a pit road speeding penalty and sent to the rear of the field.
With two laps remaining in the second stage, Gibbs and Noah Gragson battled dead even for the lead through the first turn before Gibbs managed to clear Gragson on the outside lane.
Through the final lap and with the field behind battling for positioning, Gibbs managed to retain the top spot and claim the second stage victory on Lap 40, thus recording his second stage victory in his debut Xfinity Series season. Gragson settled in second followed by Brandon Jones, Snider and Herbst while Cindric, Jeb Burton, Allmendinger, Berry and Allgaier were in the top 10.
Under the stage break, some led by Brandon Jones pitted while the rest led by Gibbs remained on the track.
With 46 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Gibbs and Cindric started on the front row. At the start, Gibbs received a push from Gragson to retain the lead over Cindric entering the first turn.
At the halfway point on Lap 45, Gibbs was still leading by a narrow margin over Cindric and Gragson. Then, Gibbs got loose entering Turn 1, which allowed Cindric to assume the lead while Gragson challenged Gibbs for the runner-up spot. Just then, the caution returned when Riley Herbst wrecked his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang in Turn 2.
When the race restarted with 41 laps remaining, Cindric retained the top spot on the outside lane while Gibbs challenged Gragson for the runner-up spot. Behind, Snider was in fourth followed by Brandon Brown, who had Allgaier, Jeb Burton and Allmendinger battling behind.
At the front, Cindric continued to lead by a narrow margin over Gibbs with third-place Gragson trailing by half a second.
With Cindric leading under the final 40 laps, Allgaier and Snider battled for fourth while Hemric and Allmendinger battled for seventh behind Jeb Burton. In addition, Mayer was battling ninth ahead of Brandon Jones.
Down to the final 35 laps of the event, Cindric extended his advantage to nearly a second over Gibbs while Gragson trailed by more than two seconds. By then, Allgaier, who was in fourth place, pitted under green.
A lap later, Snider, who took over fourth place, peeled his No. 2 Crosley Furniture Chevrolet Camaro into pit road for his service. The next lap, Gragson pitted along with Jeb Burton, Allmendinger, Josh Berry and Cindric, giving the lead back to Gibbs. The following lap, Gibbs pitted, which allowed Hemric to take the lead.
With Hemric still leading, teammate Brandon Jones pitted for fuel the following lap. Mayer also pitted, but slid through his pit box during his service, which cost him the lead lap when he returned to the track.
Under the final 30 laps, Hemric, who has yet to pit, continued to lead followed by Brett Moffitt, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Brown, Alex Labbe, Austin Hill, Tommy Joe Martins, Kyle Weatherman, Blaine Perkins and Landon Cassill. Far behind, Cindric was in 20th followed by Allmendinger, Brandon Jones, Allgaier, Gibbs, Gragson, Jeb Burton and Snider.
With 20 laps remaining, Hemric continued to lead by mover 20 seconds over Clements, with Brown, Labbe and Martins in the top five. Cindric, meanwhile, worked his way up to seventh while Gibbs was in 10th. Allgaier was in 12th while Gragson was in 15th in front of Allmendinger.
The following lap, Hemric pitted for four tires and fuel for his No. 18 Poppy Bank Toyota Supra. Then, disaster struck for Hemric, who was busted for speeding on pit road for a second time and was forced to serve a drive-through penalty through pit road.
With Hemric out of contention, Clements was leading by more than six seconds over Labbe while third-place Cindric was in third place. Gibbs moved up into fourth followed by Allgaier.
Down to the final 15 laps of the event, Cindric was back out in front of the field as Clements and Labbe pitted. Gibbs moved back up into the runner-up spot followed by Allgaier, Ryan Sieg, Gragson and Allmendinger.
With 10 laps remaining, Cindric was leading by more than three seconds over Gibbs while Allgaier, Gragson, Sieg and Allmendinger continued to run in the top six.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Cindric, who was approaching lapped traffic, continued to lead by three seconds over Gibbs. Behind, Allgaier remained in third place ahead of teammate Gragson and Allmendinger. Hemric, meanwhile, was mired back in seventh behind teammate Brandon Jones.
With three laps remaining, Cindric nearly tangled with the lapped car of David Starr, which allowed the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra driven by Gibbs to cut the deficit within a second.
When the final lap started, Cindric was leading by less than half a second over a hard-charging Gibbs. Through the first two turns, Cindric continued to lead over Gibbs. Then on the final turn, Gibbs attempted to draw himself to Cindric’s rear bumper, but he did not have enough momentum to complete the run, which allowed Cindric and his No. 22 Car Shop Ford Mustang to remain out in front and fend off Gibbs to take the checkered flag for the fourth time of this season.
In addition to claiming his fourth victory of the season, Cindric collected his 12th NASCAR Xfinity Series career victory as he became the sixth different winner in six Xfinity events at Pocono Raceway, a streak that started since 2016.
“Well, I didn’t know what happened to [David Starr] there,” Cindric said on NBCSN. “I went from a three-second lead to a half a second lead, so these thing’s never easy. I had to avoid two wrecks today, but it’s awesome to, obviously, be in front of all you great people. I’m so excited to see people back in the race track, get the Car Shop Ford Mustang to Victory Lane. I’m over the moon. We’ll keep putting our heads down. We gotta keep getting better. We got strong competition and lot of racing left.”
The runner-up result was Gibbs’ second of the season in his eighth series career start. In his eight career Xfinity starts, Gibbs has finished in the top five in all but one, with his average result being 4.25.
“The lapped cars, definitely, helped me, to my advantage,” Gibbs said. “There were just in the way and messed up. Cindric got stuck up behind them and I was luckily closing. Just put myself in a weird spot where I tried to go under him and maybe, give him a little tap, but I think I could’ve gotten wider and crossed him back over because he went low and I was stuck behind him in the air. Just learning. I’m very thankful to be here…I can’t thank everybody enough. This is a blast and a dream come true running the Xfinity Series.”
Allgaier came home in third place followed by teammate Gragson and Allmendinger.
Hemric, following his late speeding penalty, finished in sixth place followed by teammate Brandon Jones, Jeb Burton, Berry and Snider.
Sam Mayer settled in a disappointing 18th place, a lap down, in his Xfinity debut while Sieg, who was running short on fuel, fell all the way back to 17th.
There were 11 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 21 laps.
Austin Cindric continues to lead the regular-season standings by 101 points over AJ Allmendinger and 112 over Daniel Hemric.
1. Austin Cindric, 26 laps led
2. Ty Gibbs, 11 laps led, Stage 2 winner
3. Justin Allgaier, 10 laps led
4. Noah Gragson, one lap led
5. AJ Allmendinger
6. Daniel Hemric, 18 laps led
7. Brandon Jones
8. Jeb Burton
9. Josh Berry
10. Myatt Snider
11. Brett Moffitt
12. Michael Annett
13. Jeremy Clements, two laps led
14. Santino Ferrucci
15. Brandon Brown
16. Alex Labbe, one lap led
17. Ryan Sieg
18. Sam Mayer, one lap down
19. Jade Buford, one lap down
20. Tommy Joe Martins, one lap down
21. Landon Cassill, one lap down
22. Jeffrey Earnhardt, one lap down
23. Matt Mills, one lap down
24. Colby Howard, one lap down
25. Austin Hill, one lap down
26. Kyle Weatherman, one lap down
27. Loris Hezemans, one lap down
28. Carson Ware, two laps down
29. Jesse Little, two laps down
30. Mason Massey, two laps down
31. Jesse Iwuji, two laps down
32. Joe Graf Jr., two laps down
33. David Starr, three laps down
34. Blaine Perrkins – OUT, Suspension
35. Riley Herbst – OUT, Accident
36. Joey Gase – OUT, Clutch
37. Harrison Burton – OUT, Accident, 21 laps led, Stage 1 winner
38. Justin Haley – OUT, Accident
39. Ryan Vargas – OUT, Accident
40. Josh Williams – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is a trip to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, which will occur on Saturday, July 3, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.