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Respect between Allmendinger, Cindric remains mutual after Bristol tussle

A colossal finish at Bristol Motor Speedway left AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric with bent fenders and hurt feelings, but it appears the dust has settled heading into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.

Just days removed from when the pair collided coming to the checkered flag, handing the race victory and regular-season championship to Allmendinger, Cindric indicated they had talked. He says he understands Allmendinger’s stance on the incident.

But that doesn’t mean Cindric will forget it.

“I think it confirmed some things for me as far as the lengths in which he (Allmendinger) would go to in certain racing situations,” Cindric said during Tuesday’s Xfinity Series Playoffs Media Day. “For me, I don’t think it changes how I race. I intend to race for a championship a certain way. I’m not going to marry myself to this comment, but I don’t intend to change that right now.”

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For Allmendinger, he knew what he was getting himself into when Cindric came up alongside up out of Turn 4 on that final lap.

“I knew coming to the checkered flag that I was going to get wrecked,” Allmendinger said. “I knew it was going to hurt when I hit the fence and probably get hit by other cars. But I didn’t care. I wanted that (regular season) championship.”

Interestingly enough, both drivers use the same airplane to travel to and from the race track each week, but since Bristol is in close proximity to the Charlotte area, they didn’t this time around.

By the time both drivers hop on the plane and head west for the first Xfinity Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sat., 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it’ll be time to focus on fighting for a championship and leaving Bristol in the past.

Regardless of their feelings afterward, Cindric says he feels he and Allmendinger still have a “pretty good relationship.”

“I think there’s something to be said about where he’s at in his life and his career how motivated he is,” Cindric said. “I think for anyone that knows him, that’s not much of a surprise. I think he’s hungry as ever. He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks and I think that’s fun because he knows he’s more toward the end than the beginning (of his career) and it’s fun to see him that way.

“At the same time, Bristol sucked for me. Certainly not my favorite experience, but nonetheless, it’s good for the sport.”

Cindric realizes the position Allmendinger currently sits with his career. Allmendinger isn’t making it a secret, either.

“I’ve got nothing to lose,” Allmendinger said. “It’s late in my career. I didn’t expect this. As we saw coming to the checkered flag at Bristol, I’m willing to do whatever it takes. Put my body on the line, risk making a pass, whatever I have to do to win this championship because I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m loving this. I’m going to leave it all out there and run every lap like it’s my last and do everything I have to do, go out there and try to win this championship for myself and Kaulig Racing.”

Aside from his burning desire for Victory Lane at all costs, Allmendinger voiced respect for Cindric and believes the No. 22 Team Penske Ford squad pushes his team to be top notch.

“They’ve been here a long time and won a lot of championships,” Allmendinger said. “They’re the ultimate goal. They have the targets on their backs, and we have to go out there and be better.

“Austin Cindric, he’s the champ,” Allmendinger added. “He’s made me so much better in trying to figure out each weekend, OK, I’ve got to up my game. I’ve got to figure out how to be better for this type of race track. As a whole with Austin and Team Penske, they make us a ton better.”

Cindric also says he doesn’t ignore the strides Allmendinger and his Kaulig team have taken in recent years to rival Penske.

“You look at that race team as a whole the last four or five years, there’s been a lot of progress and a lot of growth within that team,” Cindric said. “I think that’s exciting for the series and there’s obviously something to be said for that and they’re competitive and racing us for wins week in and week out. You definitely can’t shy away from it.”

While the respect is mutual, their mentalities contrast when it comes to the approach of the next six races on the way to the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway.

Cindric looks to take a calm-and-cool path to defending his 2020 title, while Allmendinger is ready to pounce on every opportunity possible to make the Championship 4 in his first full-time Xfinity Series season.

“It definitely shows everybody in the series that even on a day that we don’t win, if you give us a glimmer of hope, we’re gonna take that shot at it and we can make it happen,” Allmendinger said. “That’s how we’re going to be throughout the course of these playoffs. I’ll do what it takes to try to win these races and win this championship.”