By: Mitchell Breuer
It was clear from the start of the night that Austin Cindric had a fast Ford Mustang.
The driver No. 22 quickly moved from his 12th starting position to second; however, when he got to then-leader, Noah Gragson, passing became a problem. Throughout the first two stages of the race, it seemed like Cindric just could not get around the JR Motorsports driver, who kept his No. 9 in the high lane, which became the preferred line with after having PJ1 traction compound applied to it before the weekend.
Not able to get around Gragson during the green flag run, Cindric caught a break he needed with a late caution. Justin Haley and Jeremy Clements got past both of Cindric and Gragson on pit road by taking two tires, forcing the No. 9 to restart in third and the No. 22 in fourth, in the preferred lane. Cindric grabbed the lead and held it for the rest of racing, going on to capture his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win on an oval.
Now, the lane-game did not provide the most entertaining of racing, but, the Shady Rays 200 did not lack in excitement.For one, we saw tempers flare causing accidents between younger drivers of the sport Colby Howard and Anthony Alfredo, as well aggressiveness amongst veterans Brett Moffitt and Ross Chastain.
All of these incidents set up late restarts and a green-white-checkered and raised the question of could Cindric finally finish the job after being close all season? Or, would Chase Briscoe, who had not been much a factor all night but found himself second, grab another win?
The attention to thefinish quickly shifted to a scary accident that brought Thursday’s race to an end, as Justin Allgaier and Ronnie Bassett Jr made contact causing a wreck and violent impacts for both. Bassett was eventually released from the infield care center, while Allgaier has taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
The chaotic ending lead to some drivers being able to escape with good results, this included Kyle Weatherman, who captured Mike Harmon Racing’s first top-10 in Xfinity with an eighth. This is just the latest in solid performances for Weatherman, who finished 15th last week at Indianapolis and 15th the weekend before at Pocono.
It was not a great day for everybody though, as Brandon Jones once again saw his day end on Lap 1 after being unable to avoid collision with a spinning Jeb Burton. Luckily for Jones, he is locked into the playoffs with a win unlike Brandon Brown, who entering the weekend was just above the cutline. However, after a spin and 27th place finish, Brown once again finds himself outside the top-12, as Myatt Snider finished 15th and now owns a four-point advantage. Snider will gain an edge in starting position, as for Friday’s race, as he will roll off from the pole as a result of the invert.