Austin Cindric


Austin Cindric


Getty

Austin Cindric celebrates Enjoy Illinois 300 win

Austin Cindric’s 85-race winless streak is finally over with the second race win of his NASCAR Cup Series career on June 2 at the Enjoy Illinois 300. It’s Team Penske’s first win of the season, the organization’s first win in 15 races, and it all came off the back of Christopher Bell’s engine issue and Ryan Blaney’s lack of fuel. 

“It’s crazy to think that probably the two best cars at the end of that race both had an issue. The third-place car wins the race. That’s the way I see it. It’s not like I went out there and took the lead away. But we were in position. One of our best-executed races so far this year with probably our best speed we’ve shown this year,” Cindric said, while still on the track after his victory. 

Cindric’s opportunity began with just 17 laps remaining. Cindric was running third to Bell and Blaney, with Blaney in the lead and fending off a mighty attack from Bell before Bell’s vehicle was stopped short to an engine issue and he was left without third gear. Cindric neatly slotted into second, until on the very last lap, Blaney’s car ran out of fuel. Cindric was then able to zip by Blaney and claim the victory for himself. 

Austin Cindric

GettyAustin Cindric celebrates win at Enjoy Illinois 300


Austin Cindric Wins After Bell And Blaney Suffer Engine and Fuel Issues

It’s more than just a win; Cindric’s victory marks him the ninth different race winner this year and has catapulted him into the playoffs

Cindric, who is the son of Team Penske’s president, sorely needed this race win. His rookie season in 2022 was exceptional, complete with nine top-10s and a Daytona 500 win. 2023 was less substantial, with just five top-10s, and a final 24th place in the standings. This season, Cindric has now posted just two top-10 finishes, but he now has a race win under his belt, too. 

“I don’t want to find myself in a position to be okay with 10th and be, ‘OK, hey, I finished in the top 10, that’s an awesome day.’ No, that’s 10th. That’s good, that’s a step forward, but it’s not where I want to be. It’s not the level in which I prepare. It’s not the level at which my team expects to perform. That’s not good enough to race and drive at Team Penske. I know that. No one has to tell me that. There’s no meeting that has to be set in place. I take that very personally,” Cindric told Fox Sports

“He has not lost his desire. This is a reaffirming situation, a circumstance for him today. … We’ve never lost faith in Austin Cindric, I promise you,” Team executive vice president Walt Czarnecki said

And a reaffirming race it was for Team Penske, considering Cindric led the most laps of any other race previously in his Cup career and had put himself in a top-five finish position before the opportunity ever arose for him to take first. While the engineering miscalculation that led to Cindric’s teammate being one lap short of fuel is quite the oversight, Cindric running third allowed Team Penske to still take first place. 

Cindric led the three Penske cars for much of the race, but the team ran an alternate pit cycle strategy to Joe Gibbs Racing, which led to Blaney pitting for the final time before Cindric and overtaking the second track position. Blaney’s slow crawl to the finish line left him in 24th place, and Bell ended up in 7th. 

Kyle Larson

GettyKyle Larson at Enjoy Illinois 300


Kyle Larson And Kyle Busch Collide

Kyle Larson came into the race second in points and sorely needed a waiver to drive in the Cup Series playoffs after missing the previous race, the Coca-Cola 600. Kyle Busch is suffering from a 36-race winless streak and is Gateway’s defending champion. 

Both drivers were battling within the top 10, before Larson slid up the track and into Busch on the entry to Turn 1, ending with the cars colliding into the outside wall and ending Busch’s race prematurely. Larson ended in 10th place. 

“Hate it for my guys, everybody on the Rebel Camaro — We can’t afford days like this. … Trying to race for a playoff spot and gradually fallen there a little bit. He got loose and wiped us out,” Busch told Fox Sports.

“We were coming to the end of that stage, and I was little better than him and [I went to] side-draft him and barely touched his quarter panel. I’m guessing it ticked him off and he squeezed into me. … I guess he took the air off of me and [we] spun.” Larson said, in response to the crash. 

While Larson has spent the last few days unknowing of if NASCAR would grant him a playoff waiver, the waiver was granted on June 4. Larson will be allowed to drive in the Cup Series playoffs, despite missing the Coke 600. 

Now, with his race win, Cindric will join Larson on the playoff grid.

However, Cindric is aware that without Blaney’s fuel shortage, it’s unlikely he would have won the race. 

“Honestly, I’m heartbroken for the 12 team. I don’t know what happened to them at the end of the race, but they deserved to win this race. Ryan’s been a hell of a leader on this team. This weekend was a great weekend for everybody involved, to have two cars in the fight, an eventual 1-2 there — I’m heartbroken for those guys, but this is huge for me. This is huge for this team,” Cindric told Fox Sports



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