Race Weekend Central

Austin Cindric Takes Advantage As Ryan Blaney’s Misfortune Continues

MADISON, Ill. – Two hundred and ninety-nine miles into Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300, defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion Ryan Blaney was poised to pick up his first win of the 2024 season. 

By the time the field made its way around to take the checkered flag at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, heartbreak once again found its way to Blaney as he ran out of fuel on the final lap, allowing Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric to win for the first time since the 2022 Daytona 500. 

See also
Austin Cindric Wins at Gateway

Cindric is now the only one of the three Team Penske drivers locked into the NASCAR Playoffs with a win, with Blaney and Logano needing a victory of their own to lock themselves into the postseason.

“I was just happy that we were in position there at the end when the 12 car ran out and to bring home the win, because this team deserves it,” Cindric said. “I can’t wait to get back to the shop. Everyone has been so supportive and believing in me through good days and bad days, and I can’t think of a better place to work.”

Cindric indeed was in a position to take advantage on Sunday. Minus Christopher Bell, he led the most laps on Sunday, pacing the field 53 times. And when Bell faded in the closing laps with apparent engine problems, limping home to finish seventh, Cindric’s opportunity met paydirt with Blaney’s fuel mishap. 

“I didn’t know we were close on fuel. I was kind of shocked if I’m being honest. It’s crazy to think the two best cars at the end of the race both had an issue and the third-place car wins the race,” Cindric said. “It’s not like I went out there and took the lead away. We were in position, and it was probably one of our best-executed races of the year and probably the best speed we have shown this year.”

From the standpoint of the No. 2 car of Cindric, there did not appear to be fuel concerns late. In fact, Sunday’s race winner had enough in the tank to perform a post-race victory burnout.

“Honestly at that point, we felt we like were in a good position,” said Brian Wilson, Cindric’s crew chief. “Obviously on that last stop, everyone is trying to be as quick as we can. We were in a position where we felt good about it.”

It was not hard for Blaney to tell how fast of a car Cindric had on Sunday. 

“They were fast. I don’t know if I would have passed him if we wouldn’t have jumped them on the pit stop. It was all I had to keep up with him before the pit stop,” Blaney said. “They were great, they did a good job. I’m happy for that team, but obviously bummed for us.”

All of that is little solace for Blaney, whose ill-fated month of May carried over into June on a hot and humid afternoon across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis. His Coca-Cola 600 last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway ended early by way of a flat tire with him also failing to finish at Darlington Raceway after being caught up in a multi-car incident.  

“The nut shots keep coming here this past month. Hopefully, it straightens itself out,” Blaney said. “I’m proud of the effort. We just have to figure out what happened there. We thought we had more fuel than we did. It’s not like we left it short on purpose. We’ll have to find out more and dig into that.”

About the author

Brad joined Frontstretch.com in 2020 and contributes to the site's 5 Points To Ponder column and other roles as needed. A graduate of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he has covered sports in some capacity for more than 20 years with coverage including local high school sports, college athletics and minor league hockey. Brad has received multiple awards for his work from the Georgia Press Association.

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