Cindric Clinches Enjoy Illinois 300 Victory in Dramatic Fashion as Blaney Runs Out of Fuel

Cindric Clinches Victory in Dramatic Fashion as Blaney Runs Out of Fuel
Cindric Clinches Victory in Dramatic Fashion as Blaney Runs Out of Fuel

Surprise and elation marked Team Penske driver Austin Cindric’s victory at Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway, as he clinched the win at the expense of teammate Ryan Blaney.

Blaney, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion, was poised for victory until he ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap, allowing Cindric to seize the lead. Cindric surged past Blaney at the start/finish line and completed the race as Blaney coasted to a disappointing 24th-place finish.

The win was Cindric’s first since his 2022 Daytona 500 triumph as a rookie, ending an 85-race drought. Despite his joy, Cindric expressed mixed emotions upon exiting his No. 2 Ford.

“This weekend was a great weekend for everybody involved,” Cindric said. “But, yeah, to have two cars in the fight, eventual 1-2. Heartbroken for those guys. This is huge for me. This is huge for this team. 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 drove my butt off, hope for the best.”

All three Team Penske drivers – Cindric, Blaney, and Joey Logano – opted for only three pit stops, staying out under caution for the Stage 2 break and restarting 1-2-3 on Lap 149. Blaney pitted early in the next cycle and gained a spot on Cindric, positioning himself at the front as competitors cycled through their stops.

On Lap 217, with Kyle Larson pitting, Blaney took the lead. However, Christopher Bell, in the fastest car, soon posed a significant threat. Bell, who won the first two stages, encountered engine issues, which he communicated to his team with urgency.

“I’m blowing up, I’m blowing up,” Bell radioed to his crew. Despite the setback, Bell managed to nurse his car to the finish with the help of teammate Martin Truex Jr., finishing in seventh place. Bell reflected on his race: “I have no idea what happened. Some sort of motor issue. I’m surprised that I made it to the end. Glad we were able to salvage something out of it. You don’t get race cars like that very often. Whenever you do, you need to take advantage of it. Disappointing day.”

Blaney, who led until his fuel misfortune, was left reflecting on the near miss. “Never thought in my mind we were short,” Blaney said. “One of those things. Gosh, proud of the 12 boys. We were fast. Had my work cut out for me holding off Christopher. That was a fun battle. I don’t know what happened to him. Yeah, one lap short, which just stinks. Congrats to the 2 team. They did a good job all day. Props to them, Austin. Proud for Team Penske and Ford. Really happy with our showing today. I don’t know what I’ve got to do to get some luck on our side. Gosh, wrecked the last two points races. Thought we had a great shot to win today. Ended up bad.”

Denny Hamlin secured second place, marking his sixth consecutive top-5 finish. Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. Pole sitter Michael McDowell led the opening 40 laps before Bell took the lead for the first time.

The race was also marked by an incident between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson on the final lap of Stage 2, resulting in Busch’s car being too damaged to continue. Larson, however, managed to return to the race, finishing in 10th place.

“We can’t afford days like this,” Busch said. “Yeah, he got loose and wiped us out.”

Looking ahead, the Cup Series will travel to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 next Sunday.

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