Race Breakdown

Still running a lap down with my Racing Lead Change Stats. Broken Tie Link at Darlington took a bit longer to change than hoped but we’re making up ground!  

Just bear with us.

Show of hands-who had Austin Cindric as the first Penske Racing team to qualify for the Playoffs? Me neither. The leader at Lap 238, Ryan Blaney was my pick to lead the Penske contingency into the Playoffs and I was almost right… until Blaney’s tank ran dry and then I wasn’t.  The 26-year-old Mooresville, NC native found himself in the right place at the right time to pounce on his teammates misfortune and collect his second Career Cup win, which ties him for 115th on the Career Cup Win Standings and 18th on the Active Full Time Cup Win Standings with Michael McDowell, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez. Cindric won the first Gen 7 race at the 2022 Daytona 500 and with this second win is tied with Kevin Harvick and Daniel Suarez for 13th in the GEN 7 Win Ranks.  

Cindric’s win shouldn’t have been totally unexpected as he was hot off the truck. He qualified P2 and led 53 laps of the race, second most behind Christopher Bell with 90 laps and his average position was P6 putting him up there with Bell and Blaney and keeping him in position to pounce if anything went awry in front of him.

Christopher Bell, and Joey Logano, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 02, 2024 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

For most of the race Bell seemed to be the class of the field. Later, Blaney challenged the Toyota for the point and the two engaged in an entertaining battle for the lead until a valve spring broke in Bell’s #20.  Bell soldiered on, staying nearly on-pace with well-timed bumps from teammate Martin Truex, Jr.  

Blaney appeared to be sailing for the win with Cindric in tow. When Blaney’s engine faltered coming down with two to go, Cindric drove past his teammate and never looked back. Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick and teammate Joey Logano followed him across the Finish Line. Austin Dillon was the top finishing Chevy in P6. Bell limped home P7 and Blaney helplessly coasted to a P24 finish.

Bell won both Stages and racked up 3 Racing Lead Changes. Blaney and Cindric each got an RLC and scored well in their Stage Points.

After the 15th Race and the Charlotte miss by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin sits atop the Regular Season Points, followed by a winless Martin Truex, Jr. and then Kyle Larson. Larson’s Waiver request had not been decided at this point and his Playoff Points had been zeroed out until a decision was made.  

With Cindric being outside the Top 16 and winning, it places Bubba Wallace on the bubble. Chase Briscoe, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch each find themselves on the outside looking in with eleven races remaining in the Regular Season. 

Lead Change Breakdown

Here is a statistical breakdown of the lead changes we saw at Gateway:

Christopher Bell got three RLCs while Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric had one apiece. Denny Hamlin continues to lead the RLC Standings even with no RLCs again this week.

Gateway’s 5 RLCs ranks tied for 5th in the RLC Track Ranking. Talladega had the most with 49 and Richmond had a single.

Passing Breakdown

Here is a breakdown of the remainder of passes throughout the race.  Like eleven of the fifteen races this season, the bulk of the passing was found in the P16-P37 positions or the back of the field.

White Flag Thoughts

Here’s some thoughts coming down to the Checkered Flag…

It was great to see the Austin Cindric back in Victory Lane after a two year plus absence from Victory Lane.  Hopefully, this run will be the beginning of a strong season finish as he is now in the 2024 Playoffs.

Two of the Race’s RLCs could have been scored as Other because they were created by Bell’s mechanical issue and Blaney running out of gas. They were close and I gave them the benefit of a doubt.

In this crazy season, who would think Austin Cindric would be in the Playoffs and if the Regular Season ended today, Joey Logano would currently be out? Not unprecedented but a bit unexpected. With each passing week, the pressure to win builds.

The Bell and Blaney multi-lap battle was encouraging for GEN 7. It was nice to see side by side, back and forth racing that appeared to be racing and just not momentum.

Seeing a car with an engine issue, especially a leader like Bell, was a throwback to an earlier time when building the fastest car to endure to the required distance and mechanical issues were a real thing. It provided an element of uncertainty, long missing in these last few GENs of bulletproof racing platforms.  Although I hated it for CBell, it brought a smile to my face to see this blast from the past and wonder how the #20 was going to overcome the challenge and could they bring it home.  

Blaney running out of fuel coming to the win was another surprise.  I could understand it back in the day, but with all the technology and data at the teams’ fingertips at any moment it’s almost unfathomable to think it could happen in this day and time. Did the crew not get all the fuel in during the last pit stop? Did the hard racing with CBell cause Blaney to burn too much fuel. Did Cindric push him too hard? How about that little internet glitch that hit WTT during the race that shut down SMT data for a bit. Could that have played a factor? Probably didn’t make things any easier. Whatever the reason or reason(s) it threw a final curve ball.

The on-going “Will Kyle Larson Be Granted a Waiver?” controversy overshadowed the race and its results. Rather than celebrating Austin Cindric’s rise out of the “One Win Wonders” it was nothing but “Waivers”. The dreaded W-word has now joined “Encumbered”, “Collaboration”, “Stakeholders” on my least favorite racing term list. And another week of off-track activities overwhelming the race is adding to the fatigue growing on the season. At least we weren’t talking about “Aero-blocking”, “Tire Falloff” and “Packages”.

Speaking of fatigue, it seems that the “FOX Fatigue” is growing fast. Viewers are tired of the product they are delivering, and the social media angst is reaching new heights. Will it top out at Sonoma? The saving grace is that FOX’s portion of the Cup coverage ends after the next race and next year they will have fewer races.

Sonoma Raceway

Up next-Sonoma. Will the repave result in more RLCs?  


Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (Cover):  Logan Riely/Getty Images


  1. David, these analysis pieces continue to be invaluable. If we were choosing teams for a media competition of some kind, I’d pick you ahead of anybody on any of the TV networks, as well as most others. It’s hard to read one of these and not end with, “Oh, yeah, that’s it, isn’t it?”

  2. I totally agree with what Frank said! Thanks, Frank!
    You continue to amaze me with the stats you provide us with.
    Thanks, David!

    1. Thanks Vivian! Very much appreciated. Guess it goes to show that even a nerd can make a contribution to the sport. LOL

      Have a great race weekend!

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