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NASCAR Xfinity at the Phoenix finale: Cindric guns down Allgaier to win the championship

NASCAR Xfinity Series Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix Raceway
• Cindric wins overtime shootout after pitting for fresh tires

Phoenix, AZ, Nov 7/20 (GRW): In a repeat of the finish of the previous day’s Truck Series finish, when today’s Xfinity race went into overtime, Austin Cindric pitted for new tires giving up his lead. Allgaier, who did not pit, inherited the lead and but Cindric was able to run him down and take the checker – and the series championship.

As things unfolded on those final two laps, Allgaier was overwhelmed by the fresh tire contingent and he finished in fifth place. Noah Gragson was second, Brandon Jones was third, and Michael Annett fourth.

“I watched Sheldon Creed do it last night, so why couldn’t we?” Cindric said about coming to pit road late. “Amazing effort by this 22 team. Brian Wilson and all the guys. Everybody back at the shop. There was a lot of work put into this race car.”

“I’m speechless, I can’t believe it. You know the equipment you’re in is the best of the best and the people you’re working with are the best of the best,” he added.

Going into the race, Chase Briscoe was a favourite on the basis of having nine wins, the most this season. Cindric had five. Allgaier had three wins but he had shown his particular strength on the shorter tracks like this one-miler.

Briscoe was the first to show his potential, leading most of the way to winning the first Stage on lap 45. But he also showed that he was vulnerable, having already brushed the wall. Next it was Allgaier’s turn to lead the race until a caution on lap 76 of the 200-lap race made for another restart with a shootout between Allgaier and Cindric for the lead. Cindric prevailed and he went on to win the second Stage which ended a few laps later.

Allgaier won this restart but Cindric was right behind him – and he got past him into the lead on lap 130. He led for the next 33 laps as Allgaier slid back to fourth place behind Brandon Jones and Briscoe.

Mid-way in this final 110-lap Stage every driver was going to have to make a pit stop for fuel (and tires). Allgaier started the cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 161 and the other three championship contenders followed suit over the next few laps.

These rounds of green-flag pit stops are fraught because, if you pit early and then a caution comes out before everyone else has pitted, you can get caught one lap down – and this close to the end of the race, you may not have time to get yourself unlapped and then catch back up to the race leaders.

This is exactly what happened here. A back-marker, Joe Graf, spun in turn three and the seventh caution came out on lap 171. At the moment when this happened, Cindric was in third with Allgaier right behind in fourth place – but on the lead lap – effectively in first and second place once things got sorted out.

But Allgaier took the opportunity to pit for a set of new tires while Cindric stayed out and in the lead. However, Allgaier had only fallen back to the second row for the restart and, on the green, he was able to close right up on Cindric. Would his fresher tires see him getting past Cindric for the win?

PHOTO NXS PHX CindricAllgaier 110720Justin Allgaier (No. 7) and Austin Cindric (No. 22) lead the field during the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Surprisingly, Cindric was able to hold onto the lead and he started to pull away despite his older tires. As the laps wound down, it was looking like Cindric was going to win for sure.

Then it happened. Cindric’s semi-teammate Briscoe, whose car had been loose all race, made an unassisted spin, bringing out a late caution and sending the race into overtime.

Now came the question, with only two green-flag laps remaining and with Cindric and Allgaier both on fairly new tires with only a few laps on them, should they stay out and hang on to their track position or should they pit and give up some track position and hope that the newer tires would give them enough of an advantage to catch and pass everyone who had not pitted?

Given that Cindric had been pulling away from Allgaier on his slightly more worn tires, it seemed like a good bet that he should hang on to his track position ahead of Allgaier by not pitting. And, perhaps, Allgaier should make a Hail Mary move by pitting out of second place and hoping that, as for Creed the day before , he would be able to charge forward on his grippier tires to catch and pass Cindric over those final two laps?

That conventional wisdom went out the window when Cindric pitted and Allgaier stayed out and took over the lead. This left Cindric taking the restart from the second row in third place.

However, on the restart, like Creed the day before, he shot forward and passed everyone. Gragson was the toughest one to get past but he made it in the final turn, taking the checker and the championship.

Gragson was a close second behind him. Brandon Jones was third, Michael Annett was fourth while Allgaier had to settle for fifth – again proving that the late pit-stop strategy of Creed and now Cindric was the right decision.

Cindric has already been promised another year in the Team Penske Xfinity car before moving up to the No. 21 Woods Brothers car (a Penske satellite team) in Cup the following year. Allgaier will continue to drive in Xfinity for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Shed no tears for Briscoe; he has already been confirmed as Clint Bowyer’s replacement next year in the Stewart-Haas No. 14 Cup car.

• Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity finale at Phoenix
• Click HERE for the season-end Xfinity Series driver points standings

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