Austin Cindric wins Watkins Glen Xfinity race for first career victory

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Austin Cindric won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International, beating AJ Allmendinger in thrilling duel that saw the lead change multiple times on the next-to-last lap before Cindric pulled away.

Cindric passed Allmendinger coming to the white flag moments after Allmendinger forced him off track in Turn 6.

“This is awesome,” Cindric told NBC. “That was fun, man. AJ was pumped, after the race he gave me the hang loose (sign). He’s such a cool guy. It was cool to be able to race him for my first win. Feels good.”

Cindric had pit from the lead with 10 laps to go. He was in position to challenge Allmendinger with fresher tires after he passed three cars on the final restart when the field slowed to avoid a sideways Christopher Bell in the esses.

“That was nuts,” Cindric said. “I didn’t know how that was going to work out, but sometimes the path clears and you’ve got to take advantage of it and we executed all day today.”

The win comes in Cindric’s 54th career Xfinity start. It is Team Penske’s first Xfinity win since last September’s race at Darlington (28 races). Cindric, 20, is the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric.

Allmendinger, an analyst for NBC Sports, was making his second start of the year for Kaulig Racing. He led 24 of 82 laps but his car failed post-race inspection when the No. 10 Chevrolet did not meet minimum heights. Allmendinger’s had second and third-place finishes in both of his starts vacated due to inspection failures.

With Allmendinger’s finish and Stage 2 win disqualified, the top five was revised to Cindric, Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

More: Race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tyler Reddick bounced back from going off track multiple times in the race to finish fifth for his best result on a road course … Chase Briscoe finished sixth and Noah Gragson finished ninth in their first Watkins Glen starts.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Ross Chastain was eliminated in a crash on the last lap of Stage 1 when he was forced off track and into a tire barrier by Justin Allgaier in retaliation. Chastain had turned Allgaier into a tire barrier on Lap 14.  … Pole-sitter Kyle Busch was eliminated after suspension failure moments after he took the lead from Ryan Blaney with seven laps left in Stage 2.

NOTABLE: Cindric’s win is the first by a Team Penske driver competing for the Xfinity championship since Sam Hornish Jr. won at Las Vegas in March 2013

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We’ve had a rocky relationship over our racing career,” Justin Allgaier said of his incidents Saturday with Ross Chastain. “Unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end a number of times of him running into me. He flat wrecked me in the bus stop back there. At some point you just get to a point where you’re tired of getting run into. I ran back into him. I had no intention of putting him in the wall. I wanted to spin him out for sure. I wanted him to kind of have the same feeling that I had a few laps before whenever he spun me out.”

WHAT’S NEXT: B&L Transport 170 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at 3 p.m. ET Aug. 10 on NBCSN

Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award.

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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