When the green flag waves for the NASCAR XFINITY Series’ Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, April 28, the two favorites for the Dash 4 Cash will be Christopher Bell and Elliott Sadler. But two there will be two dark horses going for the $100,000 as well: Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric.
Both drivers seemingly came out of nowhere to notch top fives in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on Friday night (April 20), with Tifft taking fourth and Cindric in fifth.
It was Tifft’s first top five of the season and his first since joining Richard Childress Racing during the offseason.
“It’s not too surprising to me,” Tifft said. “We’ve had top-five speed. If you look at the last few weeks, we’ve been there speed-wise at different points during the race, just haven’t totally put it together.”
If Tifft scores one more top five this season, he will have just as many as he did in all of last year.
“I felt like tonight was a big step forward,” Tifft said. “It seems like these size of tracks between [Richmond] and [ISM Raceway] have been strong suits for us. We’ll get the mile-and-a-half program there, but I certainly feel like we’re making strides forward.”
Tifft credited his finish to his ability to save tires throughout the race, which is key at a tire-eating track like Richmond.
Cindric’s result was the best of his nine-start NXS career. He had struggled to start the season with only three top-15 finishes in the first seven races. Cindric only finished on the lead lap once in the first five races.
“For me it’s where I feel like I should’ve been at the beginning of the year,” Cindric said. “At the beginning of the year, there’s a lot of different reasons why I didn’t get off going, between incidents on track and pace and just trying to figure it out. I think it’s going the right direction now.”
“I’ve leaned on those guys ever since I started driving stock cars, you gotta remember, I’m two years into this whole stock car racing thing,” Cindric said. “I’m still figuring it out every lap at a time and understanding what I need to do to be better than the rest of these guys.”
Cindric is known for his road racing expertise, having won at road courses in the Camping World Truck Series and the K&N Pro East Series. That skill came in handy at Richmond for one reason.
“Any track you get to use the brake pedal, I’m happy,” Cindric said. “My right ankle is soar from cramping it up so hard.”
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