By: Ashley McCubbin
JR Motorsports may be friends with Miles, but it was Austin Cindric who tamed him to take him home.
Throughout the Drydene 200 on Saturday, it appeared as though one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s drivers would pick up the checkered flag. Justin Allgaier ultimately led the way most of the event, but Josh Berry showed enough poise to challenge his partner in crime for the lead, even a couple passes through traffic.
There’s the old adage they were reminded of, though – this is a race, not a sprint. As JRM dominated, Cindric continued to make his way forward closer to the front each run. The final restart, he took advantage of some battling teammates to snag the lead and drive away.
Confidence is high with him, and reasonably so being the defending series champion. It was only a couple weeks ago that A.J. Allmendinger said everyone was chasing the No. 22, and while JRM appeared to close the gap, Cindric sent a well-timed reminder.
That said, you cannot discount JRM right now, with having all four drivers through the top-10 over the entire event. Combined with setting the tone at the front of the field two weeks in a row, and the sky is the limit as they continue building on what they have found.
While Allgaier solidifies himself as a championship contender once again, hoping this year it all comes together, Berry is hoping he has shown enough for an opportunity down the road in the future. Being able to score a top-two in his last three appearances, including the win at Martinsville Speedway, certainly ahs to bode well to being behind the wheel once again. But is there room in the JRM inn? That’s debatable, given Allgaier’s longevity, Gragson’s talent, Meyer’s optimism, and Annett holding his own even as the weakest as the four.
Outside of the touted-three on the day, there was no lack of excitement during the Drydene 200. The aggressiveness with the influx of youth in the series is showing given the amount of contact delivered throughout the course of the race. However, you cannot deny the talent with some saves that made your jaw drop along the way.
The only worry in watching drivers on the edge all the time is wondering where they can conserve equipment on the long hauls when tires begin fading, and have another car to contend at the end. That’s where the experience of Allgaier and Cindric may beat the all-out driving we’re seeing from the likes of John Hunter Nemechek, Riley Herbst, and Ty Gibbs. Actually, Noah Gragson may be the best example with his checkers or wreckers mentality. Can that attitude be sustained over the time when you have a bunch of bent sheet metal to look at?
This aggressive nature may be simply due to the package, though. The Xfinity Series rules have been touted as one of the best in the premiere divisions – sturdy cars with the composite bodies, combined with having to drive them on the edge. Combined with drivers willing do that, and boom – this is becoming the series to watch.
Names are made here is the manta for the series, and given everything stated above, whomever can overcome everything and be the champion at the end of 2021 could see their future written in stone. Just ask Cindric after winning the title last year, only to be held back due to Roger Penske wanting to race for the 2022 car.