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Everything That Happened in the Cup Race at Worldwide Technology Raceway

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What’s Happening?

Coming off a controversial Memorial Day weekend, the Cup Series travels to St. Louis for the third trip to Worldwide Technology Raceway. After a weather-plagued Saturday at the track, Mother Nature played nice with NASCAR as they tackled the 1.25-mile speedway. Michael McDowell won the pole for the first time on a non-superspeedway, while Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney completed a top-three lockout for Ford. Still in search of his first win of the season, Kyle Busch and the 8-team brought the same setup that claimed the checkered flag at Gateway just a year ago. Did the Blue Ovals dominate, or did someone new come to play spoiler?

You Need To Know:

  • Ford once again showed pace as they swept the top three starting spots. Michael McDowell won his third career pole with a new track record! Austin Cindric joined him on the front row. The Blue Ovals put four cars in the top seven to start the race.
  • Kyle Busch’s struggles continued into Gateway. Despite bringing the same setup that won the race a year ago, Busch quickly fell outside the top 10 and finished Stage 1 in 18th. Busch is currently on the longest winless streak of his career (36 races) and holds onto a 31-point cushion to make the playoffs. Busch stayed out during the Stage 1 caution to take the lead as he searched for his 20th season with a win. he lost the lead on lap 0, but the pace from last year came out of the 8 car thanks to the alternative strategy. Busch got involved in a crash with Kyle Larson at the end of Stage 2 and took his car to the garage for his first DNF of the year.

Trouble for Cody Ware

Cody Ware’s return to the Cup Series was anything but smooth. The first two cautions of the race involved the 15 Rick Ware Mustang. The first incident came on lap three, when Ware and John Hunter Nemecheck spun coming off of turn two.

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The second caution came out on lap 17, when Ware and Derek Kraus got together, once again, coming off two. Already on shaky ground with the NASCAR fandom, Ware’s antics in Stage 1 did not help his case in his return to the sport.

Christopher Bell Wins Stage 1

Coca-Cola 600 winner Christopher Bell had the fastest car in the opening stage and he made use of it. Rolling off fourth, he worked his way through the Ford’s and took the fight to McDowell and Blaney with 15 laps to go in Stage 1. Bell got passed the 34 on lap 40 to pick up right where he left off last week with another playoff point as he won Stage 1.

Strategy Lottery in Stage 2

Multiple cars stayed out and took two tires following the end of Stage 1. This put the 20 team in the middle of the pack, and with track position at a premium, Bell had his work cut out for him. He was up to the task as he quickly worked his way through the field, using his fresh tires to take the lead from Kyle Busch on lap 70.

During green flag pit stops, many Fords elected to stay out on the track hoping to catch a caution. Cindric, Blaney, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano kept clicking off laps, as they waited and waited for that lucky yellow, which they got when Josh Berry blew a tire to bring out the caution.

With the caution, the top six came onto pit road, along with the other drivers, on the alternative strategy. Cindric, the leader of the strategy, only lost four spots, coming in under yellow. This put the drivers in great position with 21 laps to go when the green flag flew. What was their biggest challenge ahead of them? The 20-car was back in the lead.

Bell Sweeps Stages in St. Louis

When the Ford’s came onto pit road, that gave the 20 car the lead once again. Now with fresher tires, there was a chance the Blue Ovals could take it to Bell for the Stage 2 win. But Bell got a good launch on the restart and quickly pulled away from the field. By the time Stage 2 ended, Bell was ahead by over three seconds.

With two laps to go, Kyle Larson got loose while racing Busch, sending both cars into the wall and Larson into a near 360. Busch pinched Larson deep on the inside, which sent the 5 up the track and into the 8. Larson was not happy with Busch following the incident. Bell would take the win under caution for his sixth stage win of 2024.

Blaney vs. Bell

It was clear by the third stage that the 12 and the 20 would be the cars to beat. Both used different strategies to get ahead of the other, but with the 20 being the fastest car all day, it was important for the 12 car to nail their strategy.

Bell had his final stop of the day on lap 193 while running in the lead. Blaney would follow suit on lap 206, with Bell seven seconds behind. As Bell inched closer and closer to the 12 cars, the battle for the win was on. Both drivers traded the lead for multiple laps, but on lap 221, trouble would strike for the 20. Bell radioed that his engine was blowing, which took him out of contention for the win as Blaney set sail in the lead. The dominant car all day limped to the finish, going from dominating the race to finishing a distant seventh.

Blaney Runs Out of Fuel, Cindric Steals Gateway Win

With no one in sight, it looked like the defending Cup champion would finally break through for his first win of the season. However, the broadcast noted that Cindric began to close the gap between himself and his teammate as the laps winded down. From over four seconds back to less than two, did the 2 find something or was the 12 running into issues?

It turned out to be the latter as Blaney ran out of gas while on the front stretch, allowing Cindric to get around his teammate and take the white flag. In one of the most shocking moments of the season, Austin Cindric spoiled the show to win at Gateway and snap his 85-race winless streak! It’s the second win of Cindric’s career and his first since the 2022 Daytona 500. He now locks himself into the playoffs for the second time in his career.

In The Stands

Fans had a lot to say about the Enjoy Illinois 300. We mentioned the Cody Ware incidents earlier, got top 10 in trending on X!

Joe Medlin had some strong words for the driver of the 15 today:

Shevy Price kept it simple:

@nascar_opinion reacts to Austin Cindric locking himself into the playoffs:

@Olivia_whissell gives her reaction to Cindric’s win:

@JOTT_Podcast said it best:

Conclusion

What did you think of the race DailyDownforce readers? While the racing wasn’t filled with barn burner action, the different strategies and multiple incidents did provide a unique flavor to the race that we normally don’t see in Cup. Also, how much does the finish sway your thoughts on the race as a whole?

That’s it for NASCAR at Worldwide Technology Raceway! Be sure to stay up to date with DailyDownforce.com for all the latest news, fan discussions and more going on in the world of NASCAR!

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