Austin Cindric‘s NASCAR Xfinity Series career has been marked thus far by streaks.
First came the winless streak. Despite competing for Cup Series organizations Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing from the start of his stint in Xfinity, Cindric was unable to visit victory lane in his first 53 starts, some of that perhaps owed to a famously unlucky No. 60 RFR team whose seat he split with Ty Majeski in 2018. Cindric himself finished no better than 13th in the car that year, while in Penske equipment he scored seven top fives and 13 top 10s.
Then, when Cindric finally broke through and won in the series in 2019, he effectively double dipped, snagging two straight victories at Watkins Glen International and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Entering this weekend’s Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway, Cindric finds himself amid yet another streak, this time on the series’ ovals. After winning both Kentucky Speedway races two weeks ago, he was awarded the trophy at last weekend’s Texas Motor Speedway event thanks to Kyle Busch‘s post-race disqualification.
Yeah, he didn’t take the checkered flag during the race, but the history books nonetheless show a notch in the win column — and as a result, Cindric, a series regular, has three straight wins to his name in the Xfinity Series.
Soak it in, because it’s not every day one gets to say that.
Since the mid-2000s, the Xfinity Series has often been known less for its star making and instead for the dominance of interlopers from the Cup Series to whom the spoils of victory go while the series regulars fight for championship points that may or may not be enough to win them the desired attention to move up the NASCAR ladder.
Recent seasons have rendered the above statement a bit of an overreaction – and for good reason. After NASCAR implemented restrictions on the number of races a driver who declared for championship points in an upper series can contest per year in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck series, the circuit has slowly but surely inched back toward its former reputation as a true feeder series in which full-timers could win the lion’s share of races and catch the eye of Cup owners and sponsors. Long gone are the days of 2007, when Stephen Leicht, Jason Leffler and Aric Almirola – the third on a technicality – won the three races all year not claimed by a Cup driver.
But that doesn’t mean what Cindric has pulled off in recent weeks happens often nowadays. In the past decade, just five times, Cindric included, has a driver won three straight Xfinity races, and three of those were courtesy of the same competitor.
In the 2010s, Busch was the first to string together three wins in a row, doing so at Bristol Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway and Texas in 2013. In 2016, he did so twice, first at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway, and then at Kentucky, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch, of course, was a Cup regular during this time. In fact, for the better part of the decade, no Xfinity regular won three straight times until 2018, when Christopher Bell rattled off a trio via Kentucky, New Hampshire and Iowa Speedway.
(Perhaps there’s something to be said about the summer months here? Busch’s second 2016 streak, Bell’s 2018 and Cindric’s current one have all occurred around the same time, with Kentucky a common denominator.)
Prior to Bell, the last series regular with three straight wins accomplished the feat nearly 20 years prior. That’s when Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the midst of his second championship season in the series in 1999, rattled off three in a row at Dover International Speedway, South Boston Speedway and Watkins Glen.
One could be hyperbolic, then, and claim that we’re in a new golden era of sorts in the series featuring young drivers dominant enough to win multiple races in a row without interlopers getting in the way. Whether or not that’s actually true, one thing’s for certain: Cindric, and Bell before him, have been able to accomplish something that long didn’t even seem tangible in the then-makeup of the Xfinity Series, and that they join someone like newfangled Hall-of-Famer Earnhardt in such an elite category has to be encouraging.
Cindric’s Kentucky dominance came on a 1.5-mile track, and it just so happens that Kansas has a similar setup. Is it possible that four in a row could be in the cards?
If so, Cindric would join truly vaulted company. Only two-time Xfinity champion Sam Ard has won four straight races — regular or otherwise — in the series, coming in 1983 at South Boston, Martinsville Speedway, Orange County Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.