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Strong run, bid for four wins in a row falls short for Austin Cindric at Kansas

Austin Cindric was dominant in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway.

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford led a race-high 131 laps of the 175-lap event that went into overtime. He claimed both of the stage wins for a clean, in-race sweep.

It wasn’t enough. Cindric finished second.

“Oh,” he said, “there’s about 20 things I feel like I should have done differently.”

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A win would have marked four in a row for the 21-year-old — having won both races at Kentucky Speedway and then the sole event at Texas Motor Speedway in the previous two weeks.

Brandon Jones took that milestone away, though, when he passed Cindric for the lead on the final lap of the Kansas Lottery 250 and won his second race of the 2020 season.

“I was pretty surprised,” Jones said. “Me and the 22 have had our ups and downs this year a little bit. He ran me really clean. He ran me hard, which you’re supposed to. I think that’s the exact way to race right there. So I was a little worried with him on my right rear, but it all worked out in the end.”

There were two restarts in overtime. Cindric lined up on the front row for both of them, alongside front-runner Ryan Sieg. Each time, Cindric took the lead back from Sieg and made his way out front.

After Cindric took the white flag and before he could take the checkered flag, Jones surged passed and made it to the finish line first by .405 seconds. Jones, who restarted seventh and five spots behind Cindric, seemingly came out of nowhere.

“I know that we quite didn’t get the right adjustment there at the end up, so I was probably tighter than I needed to be,” Cindric said. “But overall, watching the replay, he got a hell of a run on the bottom and I knew he had some momentum. Man, if I maybe would have known he was coming from the bottom, I probably would’ve pulled down to slide myself into (Turns) 1 and 2 and been able to fight for it in 3 and 4.

“Overall congrats to him. I mean, he earned it.”

Cindric leads the standings with 722 points, dethroning Chase Briscoe, who has a series-high five victories. Briscoe is four points behind. Jones, meanwhile, is ninth and 222 points back.

Kansas’ runner-up is Cindric’s 11th top-five and 13th top-10 showing this season. He’s averaging a 8.9 finish.

“It’s where we expect, to be honest,” Cindric said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. It’s obviously coming off three wins, but it’s not the first time we’ve done this. We’ve been in contention. We’ve led at the line on green-white-checkered all year. Not to sound arrogant or cocky, but it’s where I expect us to be as of recent. There’s numbers on the board that can prove that.”

The Xfinity Series is off next weekend and will return to racing Aug. 8 at Road America for the Henry 180 (noon ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).