LONG POND, Pa. (AP)Austin Cindric won his fourth Xfinity Series race of the season, holding off a hard-charging Ty Gibbs on a Sunday full of big hits at Pocono Raceway.
Cindric, the reigning champion in NASCAR’s second-tier series, won the season opener at Daytona and added victories at Phoenix and Dover to grab the points lead. The 22-year-old Cindric has this final season before a scheduled move next year to Cup to drive for Wood Brothers Racing.
With Brad Keselowski seemingly headed to Roush Fenway Racing, Cindric, though, could instead move directly into the No. 2 Ford at Team Penske.
He will make his sixth Cup start of the season next week at Road America in Wisconsin.
Gibbs was second, followed by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger.
Cindric won his 12th career Xfinity race, his 3-second lead down the stretch clipped to a half-second by Gibbs over the final two laps.
”This thing’s never easy. I had to avoid two wrecks today,” Cindric said. ”This track was on our kill list since last year.”
The scariest moment came 25 laps into the race when Justin Haley hit the outside wall, skidded across the track and slammed into the inside wall. Haley’s Chevrolet shot into the track and took a stiff shot from Ryan Vargas. Haley instantly climbed out the window and lay down on the track. The race was red-flagged and Haley soon walked to an ambulance.
”I couldn’t breathe. The air got knocked out of me,” Haley said. ”I haven’t taken one that hard in a while. I really didn’t know what to do. I tried to breathe. I kind of hopped out and decided to lay down.”
Haley had been scheduled to run the Cup race but was replaced by Allgaier in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.
Vargas was collateral damage in the wreck. He took it hard as he was racing in the memory of Brian Lear, a car chief for the team, who died in May.
”I hate that we wrecked with Lear on the hood. I miss him a lot,” Vargas said, a catch in his voice. ”I just hate disappointing and I feel like I did that today. Yeah.”
NASCAR ran a Truck Series race and Cup race on Saturday and the second Cup race was set to follow later in the day, making Pocono the busiest race weekend on the season schedule.
Sam Mayer, who turned 18 on Saturday, finished 18th in his highly anticipated debut.
Cindric, Allmendinger, Allgaier, Jeb Burton and Myatt Snider have all clinched berths in the Xfinity playoffs.
Cindric made it six different winners in six Xfinity races at Pocono.
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