By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Austin Cindric held off a ferocious charge by part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ty Gibbs to win Sunday’s Pocono Green 225 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons.
Cindric, the reigning series champion, crossed the finish line at Pocono Raceway .331 seconds ahead of Gibbs to claim his fourth victory of the season, his first at Pocono and the 12th of his career.
“I went from a three-second lead to a half-a-second-lead,” Cindric said after climbing from his car on the frontstretch at the 2.5-mile triangular track. “We gave (Gibbs) a chance, didn’t we? We had to make it exciting, I guess. I didn’t want it, but I guess everybody else did. We’ll take it, and we’ll take the trophy for sure.
“This track was on our ‘kill’ list since last year. There’s a few more of those, so we’ll keep putting our heads down. We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve got strong competition and a lot of racing left.”
Cindric led a race-high 26 laps, including the final 16 after he cycled back into the top spot at the end of a long cycle of green-flag pit stops.
Gibbs was more than three seconds behind when Cindric inherited the lead, but he closed rapidly in the final laps when Cindric was slowed by lapped traffic.
“The lapped cars definitely helped me to my advantage,” said Gibbs, who led 11 laps, won the second stage and posted his seventh top-five finish in eight starts this season. “They were just in the way. Cindric got stacked up behind them.”
Accidents cost several contending cars the opportunities for strong finishes. Shortly after a restart on Lap 25, Sam Mayer stuck the nose of the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet between Justin Haley’s Camaro and the outside wall.
When Haley moved up the track, contact between the cars turned Haley into the outside wall along the Long Pond straightaway. Haley careened across the track hard into the inside barrier and bounced back into traffic where Ryan Vargas’ Chevrolet T-bone Haley’s helpless machine.
With the wind knocked out of him, Haley climbed from his wrecked car and lay on the pavement outside the driver’s door before getting to his feet.
“I’m really thankful NASCAR builds such safe race cars,” Haley said after a mandatory trip to the infield care center. “Obviously, that was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever taken.”
Nine laps later—after NASCAR red-flagged the race for cleanup from Haley’s wreck—polesitter and Stage 1 winner Harrison Burton spun underneath Justin Allgaier in Turn 1, backed into the outside wall and was eliminated from the race in the 37th position.
Burton said he thought he could clear Allgaier and slide up in front of him, but at the last second, he realized Allgaier was still to his outside.
“I’ve got to quit making mistakes, and we’ll put our car in Victory Lane before long,” Burton said.
On Lap 46, Riley Herbst spun into the Turn 2 wall and out of the race after contact with the No. 15 Chevrolet of Colby Howard.
“I thought you said ‘Clear,’” Herbst radioed to spotter Tim Fedewa after the crash.
“I did say ‘Clear,’” Fedewa replied. “He drove it back out there.”
JR Motorsports drivers Justin Allgaier ran fourth and fifth, respectively, with AJ Allmendinger completing the top five.
Cindric, the sixth different winner in six NASCAR Xfinity Series events at the Tricky Triangle, extended his series lead over second-place Allmendinger to 101 points.
Daniel Hemric led 18 laps and appeared to have a car capable of delivering his first NASCAR national series victory, but Hemric ruined his own chances with two pit road speeding penalties before rallying to finish sixth.
Brandon Jones, Jeb Burton, Josh Berry and Myatt Snider finished seventh through tenth.