By: Mitchell Breuer
In the second night of NASCAR’s championship weekend at Phoenix Raceway, we saw more playoff dramatics. Just like Friday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race, the NASCAR Xfinity Series title was decided by a green-white-checkered restart and, again, fresh tires made the difference.
Austin Cindric, to his credit, proved to be the most dominant competitor of the day, leading 72 of 200 laps.
The driver of the No. 22 had the best car on the long run, but he faced a tall obstacle in chasing down fellow Championship 4 competitor Justin Allgaier, who stayed out to take the lead and had shown to be the best short run car.
It came down to the last lap, where Cindric not only battled with Allgaier, but his JR Motorsports teammate, Noah Gragson. The 22 moved around the No. 7, but that was not enough for him; he wanted the win. In a move he did not need to do as Allgaier was falling backwards, Cindric dived to the bottom of Gragson in the final corner and it paid off, as he captured his sixth win of the season in addition to his title.
Another interesting note is how we even got to the overtime restart.
Chase Briscoe, who was the favorite entering the day, and looked to be on his way to the championship after winning Stage 1. However, he faded from the lead and never returned following that point. His day worsened as a caution for Joe Graf Jr. caught him a lap down. Fortunately for him, he was the free pass, but things did not get that much better, as with three laps to go he spun and hit the wall causing the late race restart.
After a dominant season, Briscoe ended the day the lowest of the Championship 4.
Just above him was Justin Haley, who finished in eighth, who entered the day as the self-proclaimed “Dark Horse,” and proved to be a non-factor in the championship fight. This is not to say it was a bad day for the No. 11 team, who spent most of the day in the top-10, but just did not have anything for the leaders, being the only Championship 4 driver not to lead a lap. Despite the lack of a title, Haley will still be able to hang his head high, as he finishes the season with a career high in top-five’s (10) and top-10’s (21).