Briscoe & Cindric Kept it Clean with Hard-Fought Top 10s in Dirt Derby Debuts

0

Brad Keselowski Racing Post-Race Report: Eldora Speedway

No. 19 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford F-150

Austin Cindric steered clear through the dust and mud Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway to score a 10th-place finish in his first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series dirt race.  The driver of the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford F-150 grabbed his third consecutive top-10 finish in one of his most solid performances of the 2017 season.  He also gained one position in the series championship standings, moving up to 10th.

Cindric kicked off his night by scoring a fourth-place finish in his 10-lap qualifying race and earning the 17th-place starting position for the 150-lap Eldora Dirt Derby. He successfully dodged three separate incidents during Stage 1 to finish the 40-lap segment in sixth position. Crew chief Doug Randolph chose not to pit between stages, opting for track position over tires and adjustments. Stage 2 went green on lap 41 and, armed with better track position, Cindric jockeyed for positions among the top five, finishing fourth at the conclusion of the stage on lap 90.

Once again, Cindric stayed on the track between stages and he lined up in second place when the race went green on lap 91. Cindric cleanly navigated the chaotic restart and the three and sometimes four-wide racing as the intensity ramped up in the final stage.  He had just moved up to sixth when the ninth caution slowed the pace on lap 120.

The green flag waved on lap 125 and Cindric struggled on the restart, but with good reason: his transmission was stuck in third gear.  He did an admirable job over the final 22 laps, surviving two restarts including a frantic 10-lap dash to the finish.  When the dust settled, Cindric had cleanly picked his way through chaos to finish 10th.

Austin Cindric: “This is our first race with Fitzgerald Glider Kits on our No. 19 Ford F-150 and it’s awesome to get them a top-10 finish. I had zero expectations coming into Eldora. I knew I had a great teammate in Chase Briscoe to lean on and I did. We ran a smart race all night and stayed out of trouble.  Doug was able to do the right things strategy-wise to make sure that I’d be able to stay out front and out of the mess. It was really great to get points in every single stage. We got stuck in third gear on the restart at the end. It’s unfortunate, because I think it hurt our performance a little bit. Maybe we could have finished up into the top five, but these things happen. It’s another solid result and we’ll move on to Pocono.”

Starting Position: 17th

Finishing Position: 10th

Status: Running

Stage Wins: 0

Laps Led: 0

Driver Point Standings: 10th

Points Behind Final Playoff Position: 45

No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150

Chase Briscoe‘s first-career race at Eldora Speedway was full of setbacks, but despite being in a backup truck and losing fourth gear early in the race, he and his Cooper Standard team were able to salvage an impressive third-place finish.

By the end of final practice, Briscoe and crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. had their Ford F-150 right where they wanted it for Wednesday night’s Dirty Derby. Unfortunately, with moments remaining in the session, Briscoe jumped the dirt track’s cushion and made hard contact with the outside wall, nearly flipping his truck before it came to rest with severe damage, sending the team to a backup truck. Briscoe was second fastest in qualifying, despite not having any laps on the new chassis and led his qualifying race until his right-front wheel locked up with two laps to go. He finished third and claimed the 12th-place starting spot.

Briscoe was up to fourth by lap 15, and reported shortly after that his truck kept popping out of fourth gear. He was still in the fourth spot when the first stage of the night ended, and the BKR team used the break to install a bungee cord to keep the shifter in fourth gear, in addition to providing the No. 29 with four tires, fuel and both track-bar and wedge adjustments. When racing resumed, Briscoe quickly found that the bungee cord could not solve his issue, and he would be forced to race in third gear for the remainder of the event. Faced with a loose condition and limitations on his transmission, Briscoe dropped back as far as 20th.

Forced to rework the truck’s setup to make the most of its abilities, Hillman Jr. provided Briscoe with major handling adjustments during the cautions on laps 69 and 86, which allowed the team to remain on the track during the final stage break and restart sixth on lap 91. Briscoe quickly surged up to second, but his lack of fourth gear continued to plague him, and he was scored eighth when the race went green with less than 20 laps remaining. A strong restart allowed the rookie to instantly gain four spots, and by lap 141, Briscoe was in second place. A heated battle with another dirt veteran ensued in the closing laps, and with just three laps remaining, Briscoe relinquished the runner-up position, crossing the finish line in third place. The strong showing allowed Briscoe to maintain the third spot in the driver points and significantly close the gap between him and the point leader.

Chase Briscoe: “The last two days at Eldora were really up and down, especially since I’ve been looking forward to this race for so long. We had a really good Cooper Standard Ford F-150 primary truck, and at the end of final practice, we were fast with a couple tenths in the bank. Unfortunately, I hopped the cushion and got into the wall and we had no choice but to go to a backup. In qualifying, we ended up second quick in our first laps on the track with that truck. I didn’t feel like we had quite the balance with our backup as we had with the primary truck, but we were still really fast. I lost fourth gear about 15 laps into the race and had to run the whole race in third gear, which hurt us. When the track is that slick, having fourth gear so you can pedal it and keep it hooked up is big. I just couldn’t carry straightaway speed. I’m glad we were still able to salvage a good night and I’m really proud of my Cooper Standard guys because they worked their tails off.”

Starting Position: 12th

Finishing Position: 3rd

Status: Running

Stage Wins: 0

Laps Led: 0

Driver Point Standings: 3rd

Points Behind Leader: 47