ELKHART LAKE â The NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule couldnât line up much better for Austin Cindric.
A 20-year-old whoâs been road racing since his early teens, Cindric picked up his first victory in the series Aug. 3 on the fabled Watkins Glen International in New York state, got his second a week later at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and now â after a weekend on a short track â comes to 4-mile Road America, where he won a pole in his series debut in 2017.
If the Glen was a relief and Mid-Ohio affirmation, then a victory Saturday in the CTech Manufacturing 180 would be âŚ?
âItâd be great,â said Cindric, who finished fifth on the short track in Bristol, Tennessee, last week. âIt builds up those playoff points, it builds more momentum, and obviously you show up every week trying to win. Thatâs why Iâm a competitor, and thatâs why Iâm passionate about what I do.
âYou want to win every weekend.â
Cindric sits fifth in the standings heading into the race at 2 p.m. Saturday. He was third- and seventh-fastest in the two practice sessions Friday. Qualifying is scheduled for 10:40 a.m.
Cindric has qualified and raced well at Road America but is still waiting for a finish to match. He has been 16th and 37th.
âWeâve had a chance to win the last two years and either having a tire issue in 2017 or having a motor issue in 2018, weâve been in the hunt,â said Cindric, who also got knocked from the lead on the last lap of an ARCA race at Road America âItâs all about putting it together this year.â
Cindric has made 55 starts in NASCARâs second division since his debut, and the experience is showing.
Through two-thirds of this season, he has more top-five finishes (nine) and top-10s (16) than he did all of last year. Cindric also benefits from spending the whole season with Team Penske after splitting time between Penske and the since-shuttered Roush Fenway Racing Xfinity program.
âSpeed-wise, I donât think Iâve changed that much,â he said. âBut understanding the race cars, understanding the series, understanding how to advance ourselves through a race weekend, how to stay out of trouble, the guys Iâm racing around, all those things come with experience.â
Christopher Bell, who is more comfortable slinging dirt in a sprint car than road racing, led both Xfinity Series practice sessions withÂ laps within 0.004 of a second of each other.
Bellâs lap of 2 minutes 14.239 seconds (108.559 mph) in the first edged defending race winner Justin Allgaier by 0.035 of a second. In the second, Bell lapped in 2:14.235, ahead of Matt DiBenedettoâs 2:14.801.
Josh Bilicki of Richfield was the fastest of the four Wisconsin drivers competing with the Xfinity Series, 16th in the first session at 2:17.387 (106.071 mph). He was 24th in the afternoon.
Westby native Dexter Bean was 24th and 26th and Nick Hammann of Elkhart Lake ranked 31st and 27th. Â Dick Karth of Grafton, a vintage racer making his series debut, turned just four laps in the afternoon session and was last on the speed chart.
Road America has a title sponsor for next yearâs Xfinity race: Henryâs Repeating Arms. The New Jersey-based rifle manufacturer has a manufacturing facility in Rice Lake and has had a sponsorship presence at the track since last season.
Adjustments in the schedule move the 2020 race ahead two weeks to Aug. 8.
Henryâs has a two-year deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for Road America, sponsoring Cole Custer this weekend.
Trans Am series leader Chris Dyson beat two-time defending champion Ernie Francis Jr. for the pole for the Ryan Companies Road America Classic. Dysonâs best lap was 2:04.550 (117.004 mph). Francis lapped in 2:04.790.
Defending winner Boris Said qualified third and will share the second rowÂ with Cliff Ebben, the 67-year-old racer from Appleton who won in the rain in 2016. The race is set for 11:40 a.m.
Rafa Matos won the pole for the TA2 class Ryan Industries Muscle Car Challenge scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday.
Irishman James Roe Jr. inherited the victory in the first of two F3 Americas races when teammate Benjamin Pedersen was issued penalties totaling 15 seconds for causing an accident and jumping a restart. The series competes again at 9:10 a.m. Saturday.
Off-road racer Cole Potts of Scottsdale, Arizona, took advantage of a last-lap tangle ahead of him to win the first of the three Speed Energy Super Trucks series events. The other two are set for 12:50 and 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
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