LONG POND; Pa. — Audio and recap by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — ARCA photo —
Defending ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion Grant Enfinger was the bridesmaid in both series stops at Pocono Raceway last season, but when the checkered flag flew Friday evening, he was second no more at the Tricky Triangle.
The Alabama native stretched his fuel the final 42 laps and held off a furious charge from 17-year-old Austin Cindric to score his first Pocono victory and win his first series start of the year in the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200.
“I was saying a lot of prayers there,” Enfinger said of the end of the race. “You get a lot of time of think here on these long straightaways here at Pocono. I was nervous more about us having a blip in the fuel. I tried to focus on hitting my marks here the last couple laps and I knew if we didn’t, he was fast enough to pass us. It just all worked out.”
“We kind of chose this race because Bret and everybody at Bret Holmes Racing is gearing up to race serious next year and Bret is going to make his speedway debut later on in the year — we want him to learn some stuff. Obviously, I’ve got some experience here, but I have zero experience with these composite cars at a big track, so that’s why we kind of chose this one. Myself and Bret were both able to get some seat time on Tuesday, so he’ll be more prepared when he comes back here next year.”
Enfinger took the lead with 17 laps to go as William Byron gave up the point for a splash of fuel, with Cindric’s No. 99 PIRTEK Ford inching closer and closer in the closing stages, and ultimately never gave it up again.
Cindric started on pole after qualifying got rained out, while Enfinger started 13th in the 80-lap event and used a different pit strategy to gain track position and end up in victory circle by day’s end.
“We kind of used this (race) as a learning process, but we came out here with intentions to do what we did and that’s win the race,” Enfinger explained. “We didn’t have any speed Tuesday, we didn’t have any speed yesterday and just kept on working hard and throwing everything at it and we kind of made a gutsy call there. We lost a lot of spots on pit road, just had an issue, not really anybody’s fault just had an issue there on the left-front.”
“I feel like we had a third or fourth-place car speed-wise … but we had no track position at that point, so that’s when we decided to come in, take some fuel and make a gamble.”
Eventual runner-up Cindric won everything prior to Friday’s race. The 17-year-old driver ran faster than the track-qualifying record in final practice and proved to be the class of the field in the 200-mile event, but ran out of time after getting to Enfinger’s back bumper in the final corner. He drove as hard as possible in his final 32-lap stint after pitting on lap 48, but came up .187 of a second short.
“It was definitely a lot of fun, I learned quite a lot running laps all there by myself, and that pit strategy really helped me get some open laps and taught me how to pass people,” Cindric said. “I learned a quite a lot about what it takes to run with other guys in packs in these races, but I came up one touch short at the line. That’s one that’s going to bite me, especially having three ARCA races and coming short every single time, it’s quite a hard pill to swallow. If it’s second place we’re complaining about, then it’s a pretty good day.”