RICHMOND, Va. - Christopher Bell led 238-of-250 laps to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff opener on Friday night at Richmond Raceway, but all three Ford drivers posted top-five finishes to solidify their spots in the standings.
Austin Cindric set the tone by winning the pole and led a total of eight laps en route to a runner-up finish while Cole Custer ended up third and Chase Briscoe fifth.
Bell’s victory automatically sends him into the Round of 8, but Custer is in good shape as well, sporting a 60-point cushion over ninth-place Brandon Jones. Cindric is fourth in the standings and 34 points ahead of the cutoff while Briscoe is seventh and has a 17-point advantage.
Ford Finishing Results:
2nd – Austin Cindric
3rd – Cole Custer
5th – Chase Briscoe
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang
A GOOD START TO THE PLAYOFFS. “This is the only double-digit buffer I think I’ve ever had in anything in NASCAR, so I’ll take it. Obviously, a really good night for the MoneyLion Ford Mustang, keeping the Fords up front. Two runner-up finishes here at Richmond is good, but you want to win races, so I’ve got to keep working and keep figuring out how to catch that guy in the 20, but, overall, a great day.”
YOU STARTED ON THE POLE AND WERE IN THE TOP 6 ALL NIGHT. DO YOU FEEL THIS WAS YOUR BEST OVAL RACE IN THE SERIES? “I don’t know if that’s up for me to debate, but we’re peaking at the right time, that’s for sure. That’s definitely what I know, but I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made, the progress I’ve made, the things that I’ve understood to put races like this together and overall just a great team effort.”
IS THIS THE PERFECT RUN TO HAVE A WEEK BEFORE THE ROVAL? “I think so. To have a buffer over a race that has a lot of variables as far as strategy, as far as the race track itself, as far as the aggression it’s a great buffer to have, but at the same time we’re chasing speed, we’re chasing wins, we’re chasing what it takes to not just be as good as the 20, the 00, the 2, we’re chasing what it takes to be better.”
DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS AN OPPORTUNITY RACE? “Yeah, no doubt. We’ve obviously been strong on the road courses this year. There’s no sugar-coating that, so for us to have one of those in the Playoffs and somewhere that’s local and somewhere that not a lot of people have a notebook on it’s a great opportunity for us to have an advantage.”
HOW CONFIDENT DO YOU FEEL? “I feel confident we can run top five, but you want to win. I think the Gibbs cars have been exceptionally good on road courses this year, so I’d expect Bell to be on it. He’s probably got a little confidence now that he’s decided he can actually road race, so he’s done a good job and I expect to be racing him for sure.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Go Bowling Ford Mustang
HOW DO YOU ASSESS TONIGHT? “After qualifying I was really happy with it. I was a little worried after that, qualifying 12th, but we were able to kind of work forward there and didn’t quite have enough for the 20. He could just kind of tie the corner together better than I did, but I think it was a really good way to start off the Playoffs. We’re 60 points to the good now, so going to the Roval you have no idea what to expect, so that makes you feel a little bit better.”
HOW WAS THIS RACE DIFFERENT FROM THE SPRING? “I don’t know if it was too much different, but we couldn’t really get back to where we were in the spring. It was kind of on one side of the fence or the other setup-wise, but I think we got close. We just needed a little bit more there at the end.”
COLE CUSTER CONTINUED
HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT THAT BELL HAS DONE SO WELL ON THE SHORT TRACKS? “You look at their whole team, I mean at a lot of these short tracks they’ve been doing it for 15 years so it’s tough. They have a really good notebook and we’re right on their heels, it’s just a matter of the little things, I guess. There are things I could probably do a little bit better also, but they definitely have a big notebook over there.”
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 98 Ford Performance Ford Mustang
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO START SO WELL IN THE PLAYOFFS? “It’s good. I feel like this place is probably my worst race track, so to come out of here with a fifth is always nice. I think this first round is a lot easier to race your way out of the next round, instead of race your way into the next round. I feel confident that if we have the same result we had tonight in these next two races, we should be alright. There are so many variables that go into the Roval. There’s a lot of opportunity to get caught up in other people’s messes, and the same at Dover, so I don’t know. I felt like we weren’t a very good race car tonight, so to finish fifth is a good thing, but we just gave up a little bit too much on stage points. That will definitely cost us Playoff-wise. That first stage I was running fifth or sixth and that caution came out and I ended up running 10th in the stage, so just gave up a lot of points right there and even in the second stage. I’ve just got to clean all of that up and go to the Roval next week, where we obviously have a really good package going there and hopefully do it again.”
HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DO YOU HAVE AFTER WINNING THAT RACE LAST YEAR? “I think it definitely gives you confidence. None of these races are easy to win and there are so many good road racers right now in this series, so it’s gonna be tough. Honestly, with that backstretch chicane it’s gonna be almost a new race track. I felt like that honestly was where I made up a lot of my time last year was in that corner, so I don’t know if it’s gonna be the same race track for me personally. I don’t know. I feel like we just have to go there and finish. We run top five I feel like there. It definitely is a really good opportunity to gain points just because there are gonna be some guys in the Playoffs that kind of struggle road racing and that’s a huge opportunity to gain points on them, so hopefully we can do it.”