Home » FEATURE STORY, NASCAR - Xfinity Series

Bristol Bang-Up Xfinity Finish Was Classic

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 18 2021

AJ Allmendinger, right, and Austin Cindric slide sideways across the finish line at Bristol. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Classic is defined as an outstanding example of a particular style and no doubt this year’s Food City 300 finish at Bristol Motor Speedway will be viewed as such for generations.

A.J. Allmendinger’s and Austin Cindric’s banging and then sliding sideways across the finish line for the race victory and regular season NASCAR Xfinity Series championship was reminiscent of the 1995 Dale Earnhardt-Terry Labonte Cup finish. The final two laps of Friday night’s Xfinity event mirrored those races that rocketed NASCAR to popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. On the overtime restart following the 10th and final caution flag, a finish epitomizing Bristol was imminent.

However, those final two laps for Allmendinger and Cindric represented more than two drivers battling for a race victory and a regular season championship.  It displayed the talent of two men from different generations with divergent paths, but with a commonality – a hunger for winning.

Allmendinger once drove for Roger Penske, Cindric’s current team owner. However, Allmendinger’s tenure with Team Penske was cut short when NASCAR ruled in July 2012 that Allmendinger had violated its substance abuse policy. At that time, Allmendinger, who began his career in open wheel cars, didn’t have a firm grasp on his motorsports future.

There was a ride for the 2013 Indianapolis 500, success in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and finally a Cup victory in 2014 at Watkins Glen with JTG-Daugherty Racing. However, after Allmendinger’s release from that organization at the end of 2018, he sprinkled TV commentary with part-time rides. Enter Kaulig Racing, which provided him with an opportunity to race full-time this year in the Xfinity Series and a chance at a NASCAR championship. It’s a story of redemption and persistence.

The 23-year-old Cindric also took a rather circuitous route to his current position as the Xfinity Series defending champion. It wound through sports cars, an IndyCar development series, Global RallyCross, and NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series. He became known as a road racing aficionado, but few believed he could win on an oval. Cindric studied and matured into a successful oval track racer, a necessary requirement for acquiring a NASCAR championship.

“Austin Cindric has made me step my game up all year,” said the 39-year-old Allmendinger, who has won one Cup and four Xfinity races this year. “He’s made me a better race car driver. He’s made me way better than I thought I could be. He pushes me to be better every weekend.”

This year, race weekend travel for the two men means flying on the same plane. 

“They sit in the front of the plane. They make us sit in the back of the plane, so I get to have some snarky comment every time I walk by A.J. when we walk on the plane,” said Cindric, who possesses five victories this year and was booed and cheered by fans during his TV post-race interview.

“I usually try to think of my rebuttal because he usually gets the first word and the last word, and I try to shut him up before he gets the last word.”  

The journey home from Bristol was probably one of the most interesting this season. After all, when it came time for Friday night’s final restart Cindric, who had led since lap 243 in the scheduled 300-lap race, elected the outside for the restart with Justin Allgaier choosing to remain behind him. Allmendinger took the inside lane beside Cindric.

When the green flag waved, Cindric and Allmendinger sped away side-by-side. They banged together at the turn four exit as they headed for the white flag. When Allmendinger bounced off Cindric, Allgaier shot to the inside of Allmendinger and made it three wide as they sped towards turn one. In turn one, Allmendinger fought back to the inside of Allgaier, once again making it three wide with Cindric on the outside. Allgaier bumped Cindric as they exited turn two, Allmendinger shot into the lead on the inside and Riley Herbst followed Allmendinger.

Allgaier then bounced off of Herbst as Cindric gunned his Ford to close on Allmendinger’s bumper. Exiting turn four Cindric dove to the inside of Allmendinger, they smacked each other and slid sideways under the checkered flag with Allmendinger possessing the advantage. They crashed into the inside wall and then Allmendinger spun up the track, collecting two other cars. 

By late Saturday afternoon, the final two laps in Friday night’s Xfinity race had received more than 31,000 views and on You Tube. And no doubt, those who witnessed it had told and retold it to their friends. Those last two laps were classic Bristol and created an event that will be remembered for generations, but for the two drivers, it always will signify more than a checkered flag.  


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 18 2021
One Comment

One Comment »

  • John Dawg Chapman says:

    I’ve been following NASCAR since the early ’70’s when the only way was by reading NSSN. Then watching it from the time it first was on TV. That was without a doubt the most intense lap I’ve ever seen, from all three drivers. Just hard racing, exactly what they’re paid to do. The only part I regret is that so many good cars were damaged, or destroyed in the process. It was especially expensive for Kaulig. But I expect that if Matt Kaulig could change anything. The only change would be the post finish collision with the 11 car. It was a finish for the ages, & will be forever on the Bristol highlight reel.