Austin Cindric’s Surprise Win at the 2024 Enjoy Illinois 300

NASCAR: Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter
Credit: Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Cindric got his second NASCAR Cup Series victory at the 2024 Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. This is his first win since the 2022 Daytona 500. The Getaway race was quite thrilling, with a lot of team strategies, especially from Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell’s Early Lead

Christopher Bell, who started in the fourth position, was the leader in the first two stages of the race. His car was very fast and well-handled and he overtook pole-sitter Michael McDowell right from the start. But the last portion of the race was marked by a number of changes in positions.

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Challenges for Bell and Blaney

Bell and Ryan Blaney were the main contenders but mechanical issues and wrong decisions in pit stops affected their chances. Blaney was leading in the final laps of the race but he ran out of fuel in the last lap and that gave Cindric the opportunity to take the lead and win.

Team Penske’s Pit Strategy

Cindric won the race after a series of clever pit stops by Team Penske, making one less stop than most competitors. This gamble worked for Cindric but not for Blaney

“I’m heartbroken for the 12th team. I don’t know what happened to them at the end of the race but they deserved to win this race,” said Cindric, speaking to Fox Sports in his post-race interview. “This is huge for me, this is huge for this team. […] You never know when it’s gonna happen again. I just drove my butt off and hoped for the best”.

Ryan Blaney was among the main protagonists of the race. On lap 217, he took the lead, and it appeared that he was going to take victory. But he could not sustain this and was low on fuel at the later stages, allowing Cindric to take the lead. This mistake took Blaney down to a rather low 24th-place finish.

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Incidents on the Track

The race was rather eventful and filled with many incidents, one of which was a collision between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson in the second stage. Larson’s car hit Busch, which caused Busch to crash into the barriers, and both drivers could not end the race in a proper manner. Busch, who was the defending race winner at Getaway, DNFed from the race, and Kyle Larson finished the race in 27th place.

Michael McDowell’s Struggles

Michael McDowell who was starting from the pole position, faced a number of challenges in the race. He was leading the race up to lap 41 when Christopher Bell overtook him and from that point on, he seemed to struggle. Despite starting very well, McDowell could not translate his pole position into a high finish and finished out of the top ten.

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Top Finishers and Cindric’s Impact

The final top 5 consisted of Denny Hamlin in second place, Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, and Joey Logano. Christopher Bell who led the most laps, landed in seventh place after his car faced some issues in the final stage of the race.

Cindric’s victory is good for him and also for Team Penske, as they really needed the morale booster. One of the deciding factors was Team Penske’s pit strategy, which required one less stop than most of the other teams. This, coupled with Cindric’s very skillful driving, made him benefit from others’ hardships.

Final Standings

  1. Austin Cindric, # 2 Team Penske Ford
  2. Denny Hamlin, #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  3. Brad Keselowski, #6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford
  4. Tyler Reddick, #45 23XI Racing Toyota
  5. Joey Logano, #22 Team Penske Ford
  6. Austin Dillon, #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
  7. Christopher Bell, #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  8. Carson Hocevar, #77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
  9. Justin Haley, #51 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
  10. Kyle Larson, #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  11. Ty Gibbs, #54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  12. Ross Chastain, #1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet
  13. Chase Elliott, #9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  14. Chris Buescher, #17 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford
  15. William Byron, #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  16. Todd Gilliland, #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford
  17. Chase Briscoe, #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  18. Daniel Hemric, #31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
  19. Zane Smith, #71 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
  20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., #47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
  21. Bubba Wallace, #23 23XI Racing Toyota
  22. Noah Gragson, #10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  23. Daniel Suarez, #99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet
  24. Ryan Blaney, #12 Team Penske Ford
  25. Michael McDowell, #34 Front Row Motorsports Ford 
  26. Erik Jones, #43 Legacy Motor Club Toyota
  27. John Hunter Nemechek, #42 Legacy Motor Club Toyota
  28. Alex Bowman, #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  29. Ryan Preece, #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  30. Derek Kraus, #16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
  31. Harrison Burton, #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
  32. Corey Lajoie, No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
  33. Cody Ware, #15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
  34. Martin Truex Jr., #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  35. Kyle Busch, #8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
  36. Josh Berry, #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

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