Xfinity champion Austin Cindric wins Daytona season opener
Austin Cindric kicked off the 2021 Xfinity Series season the way he ended the last one – in Victory Lane.
Cindric, the reigning series champion, held off a frantic charge from Brett Moffitt over the two-lap overtime and came away with the victory in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
The win is the first for Team Penske on the Daytona oval track in Xfinity Series competition.
Cindric, 22, will also compete in Sunday’s Daytona 500, making his first NASCAR Cup Series start.
“Oh my goodness. What an awesome race. What a really, really fast Ford Mustang,” Cindric said. “Unbelievable effort by everyone at Team Penske. Obviously coming off a lot of momentum winning the championship last year but nothing’s guaranteed.
“I’m going to try to do it again tomorrow, I guess. I’m just excited I get to come back tomorrow and run in front of a great group of people. It’s awesome we have fans here.”
Race winner Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Verizon 5G
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Asked if there was anything he could have done differently to change the outcome, Moffitt said: “Start up front? I don’t know. (Jeb Burton) did an awesome job pushing me, so thank you to him.
“I can’t thank this Our Motorsports group enough. Everyone on this team has worked so hard to turn this very small team into a very successful team in a short amount of time.”
Harrison Burton finished third, Jeb Burton was fourth and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Brandon Brown, Myatt Snider, Brandon Gdovic, Daniel Hemric and Jason White.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all of the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Dillon the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 66, Ty Dillon led the way followed by Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson.
Cindric quickly moved into the lead on the restart.
Green flag pit stops were just beginning on Lap 76 when Chad Finchum got into the back of Michael Annett as Annett was preparing to head to pit road.
That triggered a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch that also collected Gragson, Bayley Currey, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gray Gaulding, Ryan Sieg and Ryan Vargas, among others.
The lead-lap cars decided to pit under the caution – most for fuel-only – with Justin Haley the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 84, Haley led the way followed by Harrison Burton, Riley Herbst and Hemric.
With 35 laps to go, Harrison Burton was able to edge ahead of Haley and take the lead for the first time in the race.
On Lap 99, Caesar Bacarella spun off Turn 4 to bring out a caution. Most of the lead-lap cars remained on the track and Harrison Burton continued to lead the way on the restart on Lap 104.
Dillon got a huge shove from Josh Berry which sent him in the middle of two lines where he then hit Hemric and triggered a multi-car wreck.
Also involved were several contenders for the win including Haley, Josh Berry, Allgaier, Brown and Herbst.
After an extensive cleanup, the race returned to green on Lap 113 with Harrison Burton still out front followed by Cindric, Moffitt, Allmendinger and Snider.
On Lap 115, Landon Cassill got turned by Jeb Burton on the frontstretch in an incident that also collected Tommy Joe Martins and Jeremy Clements. Cindric was the leader at the time of the caution.
On the start of overtime, Cindric led the way followed by Harrison Burton, Moffitt, Allmendinger and Snider.
Moffitt frantically held off several advances from Dillon to secure the Stage 2 win as a wreck erupted behind them.
Coming to the checkered flag, Snider hit Brandon Jones, sending his No. 19 Toyota sliding through the infield grass and then back up on the track where he collided violently with Cody Ware and then Alex Labbe.
Neither driver was injured.
“I was doing my job. I was trying to block that lane. We were getting close to that stage end and I’m assuming the teammates were wanting to break off for that reason and try to get to the front,” Jones said.
“We were getting kind of left, so I was trying to make some last minute moves to try to protect myself as best as I could. It just didn’t work out.”
Cindric was third in the stage, Haley fourth and Brown rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most of the lead-lap cars elected to pit but Ryan Sieg stayed out and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 37, Sieg was followed by Brown, White and Allmendinger.
With 15 laps remaining in the second stage, Sieg continued to lead the way followed by Haley, Brown and Snider.
With 10 laps to go, Sieg continued to fight off all challengers and maintained his lead, followed by Haley and Brown.
On Lap 58, Moffitt led a train of cars on the bottom lane and eventually was able to run down Sieg and move into the lead. Dillon moved into second and Cindric third.
Jones raced Herbst side-by-side to the checkered flag and came away with the Stage 1 win in a photo finish.
Dillon was third, Cindric fourth and Gragson rounded out the top-five.
With qualifying rained out, Cindric started on the pole but Allgaier got around him on Lap 3 to move into the lead.
On Lap 4, Alex Labbe spun off Turn 4 to bring out the first caution of the race. The race returned to green on Lap 8 with Allgaier leading the way followed by Cindric and Haley.
The caution was displayed again on Lap 11 when Josh Williams stalled and came to a stop near Turn 3. Cindric had just reclaimed the race lead.
The race returned to green on Lap 15 with Cindric out front followed by Allgaier and Herbst.
Williams again spun out on Lap 20 to bring out another caution. When the race returned to green on Lap 24, Herbst led the field followed by Cindric and Allgaier.
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