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Austin Cindric Inherits Gateway Victory After Blaney Runs Out of Fuel

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, NKP for Ford Performance

Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway is exactly the reason you don’t start engraving the trophy until the checkered flag flies.

With 20 laps remaining, Austin Cindric was sitting in third place and having one of the best afternoons of his NASCAR Cup Series career, when the racing gods looked down and blessed the No. 2 Ford Mustang.

First, it was Coca-Cola 600 winner Christopher Bell, the dominant driver of the afternoon, who began reporting an engine issue shortly after reaching Ryan Blaney and engaging in a tight-knit battle for what would have been the victory.

After the Joe Gibbs Racing driver began sliding down the running order, the Mooresville, North Carolina-native was promoted to the runner-up spot, nearly three seconds behind the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion.

In the closing laps, Blaney approached a massive pack of drivers who were fighting hard to stay on the lead lap, allowing Cindric to take chunks out of the margin, but it wasn’t going to be enough with so few laps remaining.

Now, they say lightning is never supposed to strike the same place twice, but if you ask Austin Cindric, that theory was disproven Saturday in Madison, Illinois.

As the field crossed under the white flag, race-leader Ryan Blaney ran out of gas on the fronstretch, allowing the No. 2 Freightliner Ford Mustang Dark Horse to blast into the race-lead, and complete the final 1.25-mile circuit to pick up the win.

VIDEO: Heartbreak for Ryan Blaney as His Gas Tank Runs Dry With Two to Go

“Honestly, I’m heartbroken for the No. 12 team,” Cindric said post-race. “I don’t know what happened to them at the end of the race, but they deserve to win this race. Ryan [Blaney] has been a hell of a leader on this team and this weekend was a great weekend for everybody involved, but to have two cars in the fight and an eventual 1-2 there.”

It’s the second NASCAR Cup Series victory for Austin Cindric, and his first since the 2022 Daytona 500. The triumph is also the first points-paying win for Team Penske this season in NASCAR.

“This is huge for me, this is huge for this team,” Cindric added. “I’m so glad I was able to get a win with Brian [Wilson] as my crew chief in the Cup Series, you never know when it’s going to happen again, just drive my butt off and hope for the best.”

The final margin of victory for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway was an incredible 3.844 seconds, despite the final lead change coming with two laps remaining in the event.

After a relatively quiet afternoon by his standards, Denny Hamlin recorded a runner-up result, allowing him to massively increase his regular-season points lead to more than 20 points over Kyle Larson.

Brad Keselowski continued his incredible streak of finishes for the No. 6 Ford Mustang team, finishing in third place. Tyler Reddick, and the third Team Penske teammate Joey Logano completed the top five.

Austin Dillon recorded a season-high sixth-place result for Richard Childress Racing, while Christopher Bell managed to salvage a seventh-place finish, with the assistance of teammate Martin Truex, Jr. pushing him down the strategy.

In eighth place, Carson Hocevar recorded a career-best result, exactly one year after making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series for Spire Motorsports. Justin Haley recorded an impressive top-10, as well, finishing ninth.

Kyle Larson rebounded for a top-10 finish, coming home 10th after contact with Kyle Busch knocked the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion out of the event.

RESULTS: 2024 Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway

Leaving WWT Raceway, Hamlin maintains a 21-point advantage in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings over Kyle Larson – who still awaits word on whether or not he’ll get a waiver for the post-season. Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., and William Byron round out the top five in points.

Next, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway for its second road course event of 2024, a track type where Cindric has excelled in the past.

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