All but lost in the late-race battle between race winner Christopher Bell and runner-up Noah Gragson was a career-best fifth-place finish by Austin Cindric in his first competition at Richmond Raceway.
It was also an eye-opener for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, who started from the rear because of an unapproved pre-race adjustment to the car and drove through the field to fifth.
“That was more work than I thought I was going to have to do (Friday night),” Cindric said after the ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series event. “We were definitely a top-three car. We just needed a Cup race worth of distance to get there. Track position was pretty important. We had a great long-run car all night and definitely a car that was able to contend for the win.
“I’m really, really happy with the guys. They’ve been patient with me, and coming to this track, never having seen it before, I’m happy with the run. This is my best finish so far in the Xfinity Series and we’ll just keep going.”
The final 100 laps were something of a struggle for the 19-year-old driver after two 75-lap stages were already in the books.
“My right ankle is sore just from cramping it up so hard trying not to burn it off those last 90 laps because, for me, I didn’t know what I was in for,” Cindric said. “I had those other 75-lap runs to base off of, but you add another 25 on that and it’s a chore.
“I’m pretty happy with how it ended. Obviously, we wish we could have gotten a top-four or top-three there, but we’ll keep going.”