Austin Cindric Steals a Win from His Teammate in the NASCAR Cup Race

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World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, IL — June 2, 2024

The NASCAR Cup Series pays a visit to World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend for the Enjoy Illinois 300. It has been a busy week since the festivities concluded in Charlotte, and the media boilerplate is red hot.

Silly Season Moves

NASCAR’s silly season started early in May when Michael McDowell announced he was leaving Front Row Motorsports after the season concludes. He will join Spire Motorsports’ No. 71 team on a multiyear deal in 2025. McDowell had driven on one-year contracts during his tenure at Front Row. He referenced the security of an extended contract as a significant factor in making the decision to team up with Spire.

Michael McDowell / Lasco Press Photo

Stewart-Haas Racing turned up the temperature on 2025 Season moves when they announced the team will disband at the end of 2024. Apparently, Tony Stewart has decided to concentrate all his efforts on his NHRA Top Fuel drag racing program. A statement was released with only a few details.

“We have made the difficult decision to close Stewart-Haas Racing at the conclusion of the 2024 season. It is a decision that did not come easily, nor was it made quickly. Racing is a labor-intensive, humbling sport. It requires unwavering commitment and vast resources, with a 365-day mindset to be better than everyone else. It’s part of what makes success so rewarding. But the commitment needed to extract maximum performance while providing sustainability is incredibly demanding, and we’ve reached a point in our respective personal and business lives where it’s time to pass the torch. We’re proud of all the wins and championships we’ve earned since joining together in 2009, but even more special is the culture we built and the friendships we forged as we committed to a common cause — winning races and collecting trophies. That is the same commitment we made to our personnel, our partners and our fans coming into this year, and that commitment will remain through the season finale at Phoenix. We have tremendous respect and appreciation for all of our employees, and we will work diligently to assist them during this transition to find new opportunities beyond the 2024 race season.”

Within days Front Row Motorsports announced they had acquired a NASCAR Charter for 2025. While no confirmation that it came from Stewart-Haas was announced, it was widely assumed to be the case. If so, three more charters are available as the four-car Ford Performance team fielded full-season entries for the 4, 10, 14, and 41 Dark Horse Mustangs.

Front Row will be looking to replace McDowell and add another driver to their Cup Series lineup. It is rumored that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would like to take JR Motorsports to the Cup Series and is in the charter purchase market. Other teams that have indicated they are looking to expand include Michael Jordon’s 23XI Racing, RFK Racing with Brad Keselowski, and Trackhouse Racing, which would like to add a charter to their existing lineup of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

The Lasco Press will continue to update the silliness as pieces fall into place for next season.

World Wide Technology Raceway

This weekend’s Enjoy Illinois 300 marks the third time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed at World Wide Technology Raceway and it’s 1.25-mile configuration. Today’s event will be 300 miles (240 laps) divided into Stages of 45/95/100 laps.

The previous two NASCAR Cup Series World Wide Technology Raceway winners – Joey Logano (2022) and Kyle Busch (2023) – are both still looking for their first win of 2024.

A total of seven other drivers entered this weekend (not including Busch or Logano) have won in either the NASCAR Xfinity Series or the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series at World Wide Technology Raceway: Ross Chastain (NCTS 2019), Justin Haley (NCTS 2018), John H. Nemechek (NCTS 2017), Christopher Bell (NCTS 2016), Brad Keselowski (NXS 2010), Bubba Wallace (NCTS 2014), and Martin Truex Jr. (NXS 2004).

With just 12 races remaining in the NASCAR Cup series regular season, drivers are looking to lock up a spot in the playoffs. Only eight spots remain, with eight drivers having booked their ticket to the postseason with a race win.

2024 NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Charlotte
Rank Driver Points Wins Stages Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Denny Hamlin 492 3 3 18 In On Wins
2 William Byron 461 3 1 16
3 Kyle Larson 486 2 7 17
4 Christopher Bell 387 2 4 14
5 Chase Elliott 475 1 1 6
6 Tyler Reddick 437 1 2 7
7 Brad Keselowski* 397 1 0 5
8 Daniel Suarez 276 1 0 5
9 Martin Truex Jr. 487 0 2 2 +153
10 Ty Gibbs 435 0 2 2 +101
11 Alex Bowman 408 0 0 0 +74
12 Ross Chastain 392 0 1 1 +58
13 Ryan Blaney* 376 0 1 1 +42
14 Bubba Wallace 355 0 0 0 +21
15 Kyle Busch 346 0 0 0 +12
16 Chris Buescher* 345 0 1 1 +11
17 Chase Briscoe* 334 0 0 0 -11
18 Joey Logano* 315 0 1 1 -30
19 Josh Berry* 263 0 0 0 -82
20 Austin Cindric* 249 0 2 2 -96
21 Noah Gragson* 240 0 0 0 -105
22 Todd Gilliland* 237 0 0 0 -108
23 Michael McDowell* 234 0 1 1 -111
24 Carson Hocevar 227 0 0 0 -118
25 John H. Nemechek 218 0 0 0 -127
26 Erik Jones 217 0 0 0 -128

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

It is an all-Ford front row, as Michael McDowell was the fastest qualifier, and Austin Cindric will start beside him for today’s race.

Stage One

The start of the Enjoy Illinois 300 / NASCAR Photo

Michael McDowell(34) got a good jump at the drop of the green flag, and Christopher Bell(20) surged ahead, following him into turn one. But, they only completed a lap before John Hunter Nemechek(42) and Cody Ware(15) got together and spun off turn two.

No serious damage was done, and on the restart, it was the same story McDowell and Bell moving away at the front of the pack.

Cody Ware, making only his second start of the year in the Cup Series, was around again in turn two on lap 16, this time with Derek Kraus(16). The caution flew again, and the pit strategy began to develop early. The first 12 cars stayed on the track to maintain their positions. From the 13th position back, the pits were busy as cars came for fresh tires, service, and adjustments.

Back to racing, McDowell again outran Bell to keep the top spot. Ryan Blaney(12), Austin Cindric(2), and Denny Hamlin(11) rounded out the top five. Bell and Blaney were able to stay with McDowell. As the laps in the short Stage One wound down, all three drivers were looking for the 10 Stage points and that single playoff point that goes to the Stage winner.

For two laps Bell drove inside of McDowell but could not make the pass. With five laps to go in the Stage, he finally made the move stick.

Interestingly, none of the drivers who stopped for fresh Goodyear rubber at lap 19 were able to advance their positions into the top 10 by Stage end.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 20 Christopher Bell 10
2 34 Michael McDowell* 9
3 12 Ryan Blaney* 8
4 2 Austin Cindric* 7
5 11 Denny Hamlin 6
6 24 William Byron 5
7 54 Ty Gibbs 4
8 45 Tyler Reddick 3
9 22 Joey Logano* 2
10 9 Chase Elliott 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Stage Two

Given the lack of an advantage to new tires, several teams opted to only take two during the Stage-ending pit stops. Ryan Preece(41) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) benefited the most from that strategy and were the first two drivers off pit road. Bell and McDowell followed them.

Todd Gilliland(38), Kyle Busch(8), Josh Berry(4), Austin Dillon(3), Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47), and Derek Kraus stayed on the track and greatly improved their track position.

Kyle Busch drove off into the lead on the restart, and Austin Dillon replaced Gilliland in second place. The former lead pack went three and four wide trying to gain as many spots as possible while the field is bunched up.

Bell, the first car with four new tires, moved up into the third spot with Berry and Truex completing the top five.

It took Christopher Bell 25 laps to move from ninth to the lead as he passed Kyle Busch and began to build an interval at the front of the field.

The teams that did not stop at the Stage break began green flag pitstops at lap 92, the halfway point of Stage Two. With pit strategies all over the board, green flag stops continued over the 10-15 laps with the Ford Performance drivers saying they were going to run long on this cycle in an attempt to scramble the standings.

Josh Berry threw a wrench in everyone’s plans when he cut down a tire and hit the wall in turn three with 29 laps to go in the Stage.

Josh Berry crashes out of the Enjoy Illinois 300 / NASCAR Photo

The race resumed with 21 laps to go in Stage Two, and the top five were Bell, Chase Elliott(9), Kyle Larson(5), Busch, and Cindric.

Bell quickly moved away at the front of the field. Austin Cindric was the driver on the move as he climbed to the second spot, but trailed Bell by three seconds. Team Penske drivers ran second, third, and fifth with Elliott stuck between them in fourth.

On the final lap of Stage Two, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch battled down the backstretch. Larson slid up the track and made contact with the #8, slamming both cars into the outside wall. The yellow flag locked down the Stage results.

Stage Two Results 

CAR DRIVER POINTS
20 Christopher Bell 10
2 Austin Cindric* 9
12 Ryan Blaney* 8
9 Chase Elliott 7
6 Brad Keselowski* 6
22 Joey Logano* 5
14 Chase Briscoe* 4
77 Carson Hocevar 3
3 Austin Dillon 2
11 Denny Hamlin 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

The Final Stage

Team Penske stayed on the track during the Stage break. Cindric, Blaney, and Logano led the field back to green. Carson Hocevar(77) ran fourth and Hamlin sat in the fifth spot when racing resumed. Christopher Bell, the fastest car all day, held down the sixth position.

Three and four wide battles again were the order of the day as drivers attempted to position themselves for the run to the checkered flag. Whether final pit stops are made under the green flag or the yellow one may determine who is in a position to take the win.

The cars that did not pit at the end of Stage Two began making green flag stops with 63 laps to go in the race. Christopher Bell resumed the lead, with Brad Keselowski(6), Tyler Reddick(45), Ross Chastain(1), and Justin Haley(51) in tow. They will require another pitstop to get to the end of the race.

Bell pitted with 46 laps to go starting the series of final stops under green. Keselowski inherited the lead and decided to push his tires and fuel to the limit.

Keselowski pitted with 29 to go. Larson took over the top spot. Blaney and Bell fought for what essentially will be the lead as Larson still needs to pit.

With 24 laps to go Larson pitted. Up front, Blaney led, and Bell hounded him through each corner. Bell passed Blaney with 20 laps to go, Blaney did the cross-over move and retook the lead. Bell reported to his crew the engine was giving up, and he began to drop back, trying to keep it running to the finish.

Cindric passed for second place, Hamlin ran third, Keselowski sat in fourth, and Tyler Redick held the fifth spot.

Blaney had to work his way through lapped traffic which allowed Cindric to cut the lead interval. Coming to the white flag, Blaney slowed, he was out of gas. Cindric passed to take the white flag and cruised the final lap to the checkered.

Cindric’s win puts him in the playoffs after lagging below the postseason cut line most of the year. Blaney coasted to a 24th-place finish. Bell was able to hold on for seventh place.

It is likely Blaney’s crew failed to get his car completely full on their final stop. However, like the true champion he is, Blaney handled the post-race interview professionally, not laying the blame anywhere.

 

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Denny Hamlin 534 In Win(3)
2 William Byron 488 In Win(3)
3 Kyle Larson 513 In Win(2)
4 Christopher Bell 437 In Win(2)
5 Chase Elliott 507 In Win
6 Tyler Reddick 473 In Win
7 Brad Keselowski* 437 In Win
8 Austin Cindric* 305 In Win
9 Daniel Suarez 290 In Win
10 Martin Truex Jr. 490 +132
11 Ty Gibbs 465 +107
12 Alex Bowman 417 +59
13 Ross Chastain 417 +59
14 Ryan Blaney* 405 +47
15 Bubba Wallace 371 +13
16 Chris Buescher* 368 +10
NASCAR Cup Series Cut Line
17 Chase Briscoe* 358 -10
18 Joey Logano* 354 -14
19 Kyle Busch 348 -20
20 Josh Berry* 264 -104

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Results of the Enjoy Illinois 300 from World Wide Technology Raceway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 2 Austin Cindric 240
2 11 Denny Hamlin 3.844 240
3 6 Brad Keselowski 4.286 240
4 45 Tyler Reddick 6.418 240
5 22 Joey Logano 10.332 240
6 3 Austin Dillon 11.021 240
7 20 Christopher Bell 13.034 240
8 77 Carson Hocevar 13.392 240
9 51 Justin Haley 13.668 240
10 5 Kyle Larson 13.746 240
11 54 Ty Gibbs 13.816 240
12 1 Ross Chastain 14.054 240
13 9 Chase Elliott 15.488 240
14 17 Chris Buescher 16.857 240
15 24 William Byron 17.167 240
16 38 Todd Gilliland 24.943 240
17 14 Chase Briscoe 25.168 240
18 31 Daniel Hemric 26.631 240
19 71 Zane Smith 30.557 240
20 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 31.538 240
21 23 Bubba Wallace 31.972 240
22 10 Noah Gragson 33.033 240
23 99 Daniel Suarez 34.528 240
24 12 Ryan Blaney 41.713 240
25 34 Michael McDowell -1 239
26 43 Erik Jones -1 239
27 42 John Hunter Nemechek -1 239
28 48 Alex Bowman -1 239
29 41 Ryan Preece -1 239
30 16 Derek Kraus -1 239
31 21 Harrison Burton -1 239
32 7 Corey LaJoie -1 239
33 15 Cody Ware -2 238
34 19 Martin Truex Jr. -3 237
35 8 Kyle Busch -101 139
36 4 Josh Berry -131 109