By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
As Austin Cindric entered the restart zone for the final restart of Friday night’s Xfinity Series race from Bristol Motor Speedway, he laid the door to leader Ross Chastain on the front row.
The No. 22 driver was ready to rumble.
Throwing his Team Penske Ford into Turn 1, it was a side-by-side battle for the race lead with Chastain — one that ended with Cindric leading for the first time of the 300-lapper at Bristol.
From there, Cindric kept cool under pressure, holding off a close-running Chastain to maintain the race lead. It seemed like another trip to Victory Lane for the dominant driver until Cindric radioed to his team that the power steering was beginning to fade.
“We got the front on the restart there, got the jump on Ross,” Briscoe said. “About 10-12 laps into the run, we started losing power steering while in the lead. That’s fun.”
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) September 19, 2020
He moved him just enough!
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) September 19, 2020
Holding the lead until six laps to go, Cindric did not have enough steering to hold off Chase Briscoe, who earlier cleared Chastain to grab second.
‘’Let me tell you, I have never felt more helpless in my entire life,” he said. “I’ve never been in so much pain while driving racecar. And I’ve probably never felt more defeated after a race. After a while, your hands get numb, your arms get numb, your back gets numb. You’re still in the lead driving away but there are 20 laps left [laughs]. What a track for that to happen.”
Cindric would fall to finish third. His podium was his 17th top-five finish of 2020, leading all drivers in the category.
With 2,050 points now to start the playoffs, Cindric is tied for the championship lead with Briscoe. The playoffs for the series kick off next week from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work this year,” he said. “To come into this race clinching the regular season [championship], a lot of positives there to position ourselves well for the playoffs. I’m pretty hungry after tonight.”
P3. Lost power steering 30 to go in the lead at Bristol. Held the spot inside 10 to-go. I've never been that physically and emotionally challenged inside a racecar. Wish I could've done more. Hungry for the playoffs.@Team_Penske | @FordPerformance | @DiscountTire
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) September 19, 2020