DOVER, Del. (AP) — Austin Cindric professed his love for Dover and soon refused to let his Miles the Monster trophy out of his grip. With so many close calls on the concrete, Cindric was sure to savor this checkered flag — and keep his trophy within reach.
“It’s still in my lap like a child or a dog,” Cindric said. “This is one I wanted for a very long time.”
Cindric saved his car from a serious spin early in the race and dominated late Saturday at Dover International Speedway and won his third Xfinity Series race of the season.
The reigning Xfinity champion, Cindric showed flashes throughout his career on the one-mile concrete track that he could roll into victory lane. Cindric was second and third in two Xfinity races last season on the Monster Mile and had never finished worse than ninth in six previous Dover starts.
Can a second Xfinity title be far behind?
“My mentality cannot change from last year,” he said. “It’s all about going to Phoenix. We’re obviously doing a lot of great things, but we can’t slow down. Everyone else is getting better, as well.”
He connected with Ty Gibbs near the end of the first stage and the No. 22 Ford swiveled a bit until Cindric straightened it and kept it on pace for the win.
“I definitely did not remain calm for the two laps after that,” Cindric said.
He settled down soon enough and led the final 51 laps.
The 22-year-old Cindric stood in the window and pumped his fists toward thousands of fans who turned out at Dover a year after they were banned from attending because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dover said Sunday’s Cup race was sold out, with capacity capped at 20,000 ticketed fans.
Cindric opened this season with a win at Daytona and again won four races later at Phoenix. He finished 30th last week at Darlington but still came into Saturday with a 39-point lead over Daniel Hemric in the points standings.
He won his 11th career Xfinity race; he had six wins last season.
Josh Berry, who makes his Cup debut Sunday, was second and Justin Allgaier was third. Berry, a former bank teller, won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus awarded to Xfinity drivers.
“It could have been one spot better,” Berry said. “We just weren’t quite as good on that last run as we were the run before.”
AJ Allmendinger and Gibbs completed the top five.
Last week’s winner at Darlington, Allgaier made the tough call to turn down a chance to drive the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports in Sunday’s Cup race once Justin Haley could not compete because of COVID-19 protocols.
The ride went to Berry.
Allgaier’s wife, Ashley, is set to give birth to their child any day and he planned to be by her side. He said he was “on the fence” about even racing on Saturday. He nearly ended up in victory lane.
“As disappointing as it was not to go run tomorrow, I thought it was the best decision for myself and my family,” he said.
The race was stopped for 10 minutes after a crash that saw Matt Jaskol’s car land on top of Jesse Little’s car and come to a rest on the concrete.
“I feel like an idiot,” Little said.
Jaskol was in just his third career Xfinity Race and admitted “I just need the laps” necessary to possibly avoid a potential future pileup.
Jaskol might have a better eye in the sky — he’s served as a spotter for Marco Andretti at the Indianapolis 500. The 36-year-old Jaskol was once a driver in the IndyCar pipeline and has competed in a wide variety of motorsports. He’s worked as a stunt driver, which should have been a familiar feel for him as his Toyota treated Little’s car like a ramp.
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