By Jerry Jordan, Editor
AVONDALE, Ariz. – It looked like Austin Cindric would run away with the win and the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship in the season-finale at Phoenix Raceway but Daniel Hemric was tired of coming up one spot short and moved Cindric out of the way on the final turn to steal the show.
Was it fair? This is NASCAR where rubbin’ is racing but wreckin’ ain’t.
“I mean, in Daniel’s shoes, that’s his moment, that’s his shot. I don’t think it was by any means outlandish or dirty. I’ve seen worse from this guy,” Cindric said, making reference to A.J. Allmendinger, who also came up short as one of the championship four. “Obviously he drove it in stupid deep and left reared me, was still able to stay side-by-side. I feel like that was the catalyst for him still being close heading into turn three. That was all he needed to be, was close. Then, it’s I got to put front bias on the car so I don’t get loose on entry, because he’s going to at least air pack me, if not, get me loose, which I got loose and then got rear-ended. That pushes me up the track. I think the only thing I could have done better is shallow off the corner, slide myself into a downshift. I didn’t think that was going to be the best move. You can easily counter that by driving in soft, driving literally straight up underneath me. I feel like I did a lot of the right things there. Just not enough.
“I’ve certainly had worse. Wasn’t enough to wreck it. Until you spin somebody out, it’s not dirty racing.”
After bantering with Allmendinger and being a half-hour removed from when he first got out of the car, Cindric was much more reserved although there was no doubt he was hiding the frustration of not winning back-to-back championships. He said it was the second time that he had been moved for a championship and the third straight time he’d finished a race in second.
“It would have been awesome to finish this out. I felt like we had a dominant race car, felt like we did everything right. Come up a little short. Sometimes it’s like that,” Cindric said, after just getting out of the car. “Unfortunately, at the end of both seasonal championships this year, I’m getting obviously moved out of the way, endured. That’s hard racing. That’s why everyone enjoys watching this series, is because there’s a lot on the line. Thankful for the opportunity. Pissed to be second for like the third week in a row.”
Allmendinger, who spun his No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet late in the race, said he was mad at himself for being part of the storyline that led to multiple restarts and the green-white-checkered finish where Hemric made his move on Cindric. Allmendinger had already apologized.
“I’m pretty sure he had a massive lead,” Allmendinger said, of his spin. “We never had the speed all day to run with him or Daniel. I thought, at the end of the day, you’re still trying to get the best finish. We were going to run fifth or sixth. We had a vibration to start with, I don’t know, 40 to go, maybe a little bit more than that, I’m not sure when we went back to green. I kept trying to figure out what it was. I kept asking if it was a loose wheel. They kept telling me, ‘no, we’re positive we got ’em (lug nuts) all.’ At that moment I decided that I didn’t think that was true. I was literally about to come down, turn in, go to pit road, felt like there was nothing on the right rear and I spun out.
“I don’t want to be the storyline like that, especially when he’s got a lead and deserving to probably go win another one. At that point, you don’t know if a caution is going to come out anyway. I had nothing to gain. I just didn’t want to be a part of the storyline. It wasn’t on purpose. At the end of the day, that’s not what I wanted to happen. It deserved to play out however it was supposed to play out. That’s why I apologized. It pissed me off because we had no lug nuts on the right rear, about to fall off. Pissed me off that it caused a yellow that I didn’t want to have happen. It didn’t help me and it cost him a headache.”
Next season, Cindric moves up to the NASCAR Cup Series and will drive the No. 2 car for Roger Penske. In an ironic twist, Hemric becomes a teammate to Allmendinger at Kaulig Racing.
“I’m certainly going to miss it,” Cindric said. “I think I’ve made a good home as far as not just the people on my race team, but the people in the garage area. The reason why I feel that way is because I went from in 2018 to being probably the guy that everyone stared at and kind of tried to figure out why I was there, in some cases I probably agree with you. In some cases, I feel like I came to the series probably a year too early. That’s racing. You can’t choose your opportunities when they happen.”
Cindric may not have won the driver’s championship, but he did bring Penske the NASCAR Xfinity Series Owner’s Championship.