Fort Worth, TX – We all pretty much had Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Christopher Bell as three of the likely four contenders to make it to the Championship 4 weekend in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sauter and Crafton are two of the seasoned veterans in the field and have won two of the last three Truck championships.
Bell, was strong last year as a rookie and made it all the way to the final round himself. This season, he was even stronger reaching victory lane five times already and finishing in the top 10 in all but two of the 21 races.
But, who would have thought another rookie, one without much NASCAR or stock car experience at all heading into this season, let alone one that is racing for a team that’s folding at the end of the year would be making a strong case to join those three at Homestead with a chance at a championship?
We have to start taking notice of Austin Cindric. The Brad Keselowski Racing driver is doing everything he needs to do in order to make it to Homestead. Cindric, scored 12 stage points on Friday night at the Texas Motor Speedway, second most among all the playoff drivers, and brought his No. 19 Ford home runner-up as well.
That’s not a fluke though.
Cindric, the lone Ford driver even left in the playoffs, has had 12 top 10 finishes over the last 13 races in the season. He led a race-high 36 of the 147 laps on Friday night, as it was his sixth race over the last nine events on the season that he’s led at least one lap. He had led in just one race in the first 12 races of the season.
Really, the first 12 races he head just seven laps led, two top five finishes and six top 10’s. Over the last nine races, Cindric has a win, five top five finishes, eight top 10 results and 99 laps led.
Mix that with both Ben Rhodes and John Hunter Nemechek having rough nights at Texas, and you have Cindric with a five point advantage over Rhodes for the final playoff spot that will go to Homestead. Nemechek is 39 points out.
Rhodes, had an unsecured tire on his final pit stop and would have to pit again. He’d finish two laps down in 18th.
Nemechek, tried to stretch his fuel but ran out of gas in the end and would come home two laps down himself in 19th. Rhodes, had 12 stage points while Nemechek had seven.
Now, Cindric has all the momentum and will try to fend them off and go to Homestead with a chance to win a championship.