Entering Saturday’s Bar Harbor 200 at the Dover International Speedway, it was likely coming down to just one driver in the NASCAR XFINITY Series that could move his way from the outside of the top eight in the playoff standings and move onto the Round of 8.
Austin Cindric trailed Ross Chastain by just nine points heading into the series’ third and final race of the first round. The other three drivers on the outside all had to have perfect days which likely landed them in victory lane.
Spoiler alert, Saturday didn’t get a new driver to victory lane.
Christopher Bell took his No. 20 Toyota to victory lane for the sixth time of the season, setting a new series record for most wins in a single season by a rookie, which by virtue of a win in Richmond and now at Dover, he kept a wildcard out of advancing.
That meant Saturday was between Chastain and Cindric.
He can thank stage points and a pit road mistake by Chastain for that.
Cindric, scored eight stage points in Saturday’s race, Chastain scored just one, meaning all Cindric had to do was finish just three spots ahead of Chastain in the finishing order and he’d be moving on.
He did just that.
Cindric, brought his No. 22 Ford home eighth while Chastain was 13th. That was enough to move the rookie onto the Round of 8 and Chastain eliminated.
Now, Cindric is getting some momentum building. After his second place finish at Mid-Ohio in early August, he had three straight finishes of 34th or worse. He opened the playoffs with a 13th place finish in Richmond. He then came away with a third place run after winning the pole last weekend on the ROVAL in Charlotte.
That set him up for his third top 10 finish over the last four races in order to move on.
Chastain though, he threw it all away with a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 167. That was the final stop of the day for the leaders and Chastain hit pit road with 33 laps remaining while still within striking distance of moving into the second round. Instead, he was speeding entering the pits which put him at the tail end of the field on the Lap 171 restart.
He got aggressive and even moved Matt Tifft out of the way and causing Tifft to get into Chase Briscoe with 21 laps-to-go, but it wasn’t enough.
Chastain, had one of the better cars than he’s ever had with JD Motorsports but despite finishes of 12th and 13th respectively with them in the playoffs, it just wasn’t enough.