As the laps wound down on Saturday at Mid-Ohio Raceway in the B&L Transport 170, the race was Austin Cindric‘s to win — until it wasn’t.
With a lead of more than 10 seconds inside the final 10 laps, the last thing that Cindric needed was a caution, as that lead was enough of a buffer against A.J. Allmendinger’s hard charge from the rear of the field.
Cindric’s worst-case scenario, however, is exactly what happened, when Jeb Burton’s spin brought out the caution with seven laps to go, bunching up the field. Cindric, who opted to stay on track and retain the lead, restarted from the outside with four laps to go. A three-wide start commenced, and Cindric was muscled off-course as a result of contact between Ty Gibbs and Justin Haley.
Cindric: Sorry guys. That is the risk I took. That was as big loss.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 5, 2021
The spin punted Cindric, who led a race-high 30 laps, back through the field, where he’d eventually finish 14th as a result of being both mired back in traffic and having a very short amount of time to make up the lost ground. As for Allmendinger? It swung the door wide open for him to go on to take the win in overtime.
“I was shocked that Cindric took the outside,” Allmendinger said. “The 54 opened the gap, I know these guys will do it to me so I went barreling in there when I saw the gap and I knew I was going to come out of the other side clean.”
A very tough break for Austin Cindric late at Mid-Ohio. pic.twitter.com/esEdWpKfzS
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 5, 2021
It was a salvageable result for the Team Penske driver from the points side of things, but that was not the result that Cindric appeared to be headed toward. Cindric was going for his series-leading fourth win of the season as well as his fifth on a road course. Instead, he had to settle for the consolation prize of a solid points finish. Cindric currently leads the standings by 84 points ahead of Harrison Burton.
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) June 5, 2021
Cindric was not the only driver coming away from Saturday with bruised feelings as a result of a late-race bumping and banging. Gibbs, one of the multiple drivers involved in the jousting for position in the closing stages, appeared to take issue with Allmendinger.
I want a redo
— Ty Gibbs (@TyGibbs_) June 5, 2021