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Blaney out of fuel on final lap, Cindric steals victory in Gateway

Written by Sean McKean

Credit - Logan Riely / Getty Images

After a dramatic last lap, where the leader ran out of fuel, Austin Cindric surged through to take victory from his teammate at Gateway. This is Cindric’s second career win and first in 85 races.

As it unfolded

From his third career pole, Michael McDowell got away well to keep the lead while outside front row starter, Austin Cindric, fell down to fourth – allowing last week’s winner Christopher Bell and defending champion Ryan Blaney through. 

It only took three laps for the first caution to come out. Coming out of turn two, John Hunter Nemechek got into the marbles and went for a spin. In avoidance, Rick Ware Racing’s Cody Ware locked the rears and spun as well. Both drivers sustained no damage.

The ensuing restart saw Bell challenge McDowell for the lead unsuccessfully – the Front Row Motorsports driver remaining out front. 

Cody Ware would be involved in another caution a short while later on lap 18. Also in turn two, Ware hit the marbles and hooked Kaulig’s Derek Kraus, sending both into a spin. Both drivers came out of the incident unscathed. 

On lap 23, Bell yet again tried challenging for the lead, but McDowell planted himself on the outside, giving him the run on the straights. 

However, on lap 38, Bell caught up and began pressuring McDowell. After being side by side for a lengthy period of time, the Coca-Cola 600 winner found his way by on lap 42. 

This is how the order remained until the end of the stage on lap 45, with Bell winning followed by McDowell and Ryan Blaney.

The second stage began with aggression from the frontrunners – all having to navigate six cars that stayed out and two on two tyres. Though Kyle Busch enjoyed a clean track to take the lead, the drivers who pitted were involved in a midfield fight that took many laps to sort out.

The most aggressive of the drivers who pit was Bell, who swiftly found his way to the lead by lap 70. But by lap 92, the front runners began to pit, which left Austin Cindric, Blaney and Brad Keselowski in the top three.

Martin Truex ran into issues on lap 109. Following his stop, one of his rear tires went flat in turn two. Thankfully, he stayed on pace and prevented the caution from coming out.

The same could not be said for Josh Berry. Going into turn 3, his left-front tire went flat, sending him into the wall at high speeds. Though he was out of the race, Berry walked away from the crash.

The aftermath of Berry's crash | Credit - Logan Riely / Getty Images

On the lap 119 restart, Bell continued his dominance and shot out into the lead. Now on fresh tires, Austin Cindric became making himself known as he moved into second.

As the stage drew to a close, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson brought out the stage-ending caution on lap 140. In turn one, the two were battling, and Larson dipped a bit too low – going for a spin that collected them both. Though Larson continued on, Busch retired from the race – his sixth DNF of the season.

Like previously mentioned, this crash brought the end to stage two. Bell kept the top spot followed by Cindric and Blaney.

On lap 148, the restart – fully consisting of Team Penske cars in the top three – saw Cindric take the lead and keep it.

The green flag stayed out long enough for pit cycles to begin on lap 175. The Penske cars all pit – albeit, separately – and Cindric was jumped on-track by the #12 team. 

Many cars stayed out though, most notably Christopher Bell and Brad Keselowski. Bell extended his stint to lap 193 to cycle out into net-third. Keselowski stayed out until lap 211 – leading a few laps in the process – to cycle out into the top ten.

At the 24-to-go mark, the last of the extended-stint drivers pitted, and the battle for the lead was now firmly between Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell. But right as the battle began to intensify, Bell had to lift massively due to a slow engine failure, which gave a nice gap to Blaney.

With two laps to go, Blaney looked like he would take the win decisively, but as he took the white flag, he ran out of gas. Subsequently, this allowed Austin Cindric to come through with the lead and take his second victory of his career. Denny Hamlin finished a quiet race in second. Brad Keselowski made the alternate strategy work to finish third. Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Austin Dillon finishes sixth – his best result of the season. Christopher Bell babied a broken car to seventh. Carson Hocevar finishes a career-best eighth. Justin Haley took another top ten for RWR in ninth. Rounding out the top ten was 2021 champion Kyle Larson.

Catch the next bit of NASCAR action next Sunday, as they travel to the “Wine Country” in Sonoma, California for their second road course of the year. 


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