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Cindric Living His Dream, If Not His Father’s

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 7 2019
Austin Cindric celebrated his first victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Swept up in the hoopla surrounding his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory, Austin Cindric had yet to phone his father as he met the media for his post-race presser.

As president of Penske Racing, Tim Cindric was well-aware these celebrations with TV reporters and crew members and team-owners and sponsors and fans must run their course. Austin’s first career Xfinity victory in Saturday’s 25th annual Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International clinched a spot in the post-season Playoffs. And at age 20, he had become the youngest road-course winner in NASCAR history. Think about that for a moment.

Instead, Austin indicated he could hardly wait to thank Tim and Megan Cindric.

“It’s funny because he’d much rather see me with a basketball in my hand or a golf club or with a textbook on my lap, or whatever,” Cindric said after scoring his first victory in 54 Xfinity races and 14th top-10 finish in 2019. “He’s pretty adamant that this is not his idea, this is not his dream. But I’m very lucky to have parents that, one, have both been in this sport for so long and been so supportive of me and my dreams, just like they are with my brother in his career. To be able to reward that kind of gratification.”

Austin Cindric collects his first Xfinity Series checkered flag. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Cindric took advantage of the early mechanically-induced exit of pre-race favorite Kyle Busch and a late-race gamble of a pit stop by crew chief Brian Wilson for fresh tires to set up a spirited, two-lap battle with road-course specialist AJ Allmendinger.

Cindric was in the lead when the day’s sixth caution flew on Lap 69 of the scheduled 82-lapper around WGI’s 2.45-mile/11-turn natural-terrain layout. Wilson had Cindric pit for four Goodyear tires and fuel, a decision that dropped him to ninth for a restart on Lap 73. Cindric immediately began working through the field. After another caution on lap 76, Cindric restarted sixth and quickly moved into second place behind Allmendinger.

 Cindric sliced Allmendinger’s lead to 0.521-seconds over the next three laps, then tapped him out of the lead through the Carousel section on Lap 81. Allmendinger regained the lead approaching Turn 7, where Cindric was forced wide. But Allmendinger also blew that corner, allowing Cindric to drive underneath and into the lead. Cindric held serve to win by 1.168-seconds.

“It’s fantastic,” said Cindric, driver of the No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang fielded by Roger Penske, his dad’s boss. “Obviously, you get the benefit of the Playoff points, which I’ve been talking about. Anyone who has interviewed me, all I say is ‘Playoff points, Playoff points, Playoff points’ and it’s because it means so much to be able to get a race win and get those Playoff points and position ourselves in the regular season.

“So to be able to do that, execute today and position ourselves in a better spot, I think that’s what we need, that’s what we hoped for coming into today and that’s what we’re hopeful for in the next six or seven races heading toward the Playoffs.”

Team Penske leader – and Austin Cindric’s father – Tim Cindric.

Tim Cindric universally is respected as Penske’s get-it-done guy in the daily operations of the organization’s multi-team/multi-driver personality NASCAR, INDYCAR and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entries. On this day, Austin also gave a shout-out to his mom.

“I mean, my mom…rewind a couple of years, she goes to every single race,” Cindric said.”I think this is the first year where she probably hasn’t gone to as many races, but especially when I was under 18 I had to do the minor waiver, especially at Watkins Glen because there was some other waiver you had to do that made this place special and you had parental stuff. So my mom always had to show up and she’s so great and she understands. She’s done PR, she’s run racetracks.

“I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand about me and my career and my family is that it’s very much on both sides. I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have because they’ve surrounded me with the right people and helped me have the right mindset towards success, towards failures, towards your own confidence and towards rebounding.  I look at my race year last year and I don’t think I slept for two nights after this race. I’m really happy to come back here and have a little bit of personal redemption.”

As it turned out, Allmendinger _ who led a race-high 24 laps _ likely will spend the next year seeking redemption at the iconic road-course in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes Region. Following post-race inspection, Allmendinger’s No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro RS was disqualified for a rear height violation that dropped him to last place in the 37-car field. Christopher Bell led a revised top-five that included Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick.

Reddick, the reigning series champion and driver of the No.2 Richard Childress Racing Camaro, has a 32-point lead in the standings over Bell and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric led the pack at Watkins Glen. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

Wilson said his decision to have Cindric pit and surrender track position was a classic example of the preparation synonymous with Penske, aka “The Captain.”

“Obviously, the finish was pretty wild,” Wilson said, “but for me, the biggest part was that pit call and that goes back to some homework that Austin and I did throughout the week.  We had that scenario in mind that if a caution came out we wanted to pit there. We had seen the No. 7 car (Allgaier’s Camaro) did that last year and it paid off for him to come back through. There was a lot of speed in it, so when he came on the radio and asked if that was the scenario we were in, we were both on the same page there.  He sounded very confident that he wanted tires.

“His development has been pretty rapid throughout this year.  We’ve had some ups-and-downs, obviously, but he’s doing a really good job not only on road-courses but ovals. As far as the last lap, I was a little surprised because we had talked about that he would make the move on the last lap into Turn 1 and the fact that he made the move earlier than that showed me how confident he was that he could pull away. I’m sure some of that was the fact that he had fresher tires, but, honestly, I was sitting on the pit box and thought it was too early, but he made it work out. That shows how far he has come and how confident he is in his abilities, that he was able to make that move early and still hold him off.”

Recall that Allmendinger transitioned into NASCAR after a successful career in INDYCAR, a series that places a premium upon street and road-racing skills. Cindric knew he had little time to size-up “The Dinger” on the white flag lap.

“He was struggling for rear grip and I’m sure he knew he had to keep it in front of me for Turn 1 because I was either gonna try a lunge on the brakes or be able to be close enough in the Bus Stop,” Cindric said. ”I’m sure he felt like that was his best chance to be able to maintain a gap and he seemed to just maybe overdrive the corner.  His rear tires chattered and he did a great job of saving the car, but missed the corner and left a great door for me open. 

“I didn’t know if he was going to shove me back again into Turn 1, so I adjusted my brake bias getting ready for it and trying to be as prepared as possible because I knew if we were able to get to the Bus Stop _ which was my car’s strength all day and my strength all weekend _ if I was able to get to there, we were gonna be home sailing.

“I’ve done so many of these races and there are so many guys that try so hard to win in this series. If you have that opportunity right in front of you to pass that guy for the win, you take it every single time.”

Cindric admittedly will have to work on his burnout skills after breaking the clutch on the No. 22, forcing him to walk into Victory Lane. “I kind of felt like Rocky for a minute, but a little more pathetic because my car didn’t work,” Cindric quipped. ”It was cool, I guess, to be able to give high-fives to the fans. It was definitely a unique way to experience it.  I feel bad for my guys having to push the car all the way back from the front straightaway, but they’re a great group.”

Xfinity Series Race No. 20 was the first of four to be run on road-courses as the schedule winds down. Teams will turn left-and-right at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, this weekend; Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Aug. 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval (Sept. 28).

Cindric said his victory represents a momentum shift at a critical juncture in the schedule. “This team is used to winning,” Cindric said. “I entered this year and they expect to win championships. They expect to win the owner’s championships the last couple of years and I don’t think our cars are exactly where we want them to be.  We want to be where that top-three group is running every weekend. I feel like I’ve learned a lot on the oval side of things to be able to execute those weekends better and maybe get more out of my car and understand what that experience side means and really exploit that. 

“I feel like we’ve been making gains, but it’s very gratifying to be able to win in this car with this group because we’ve been in some pretty adverse situations, whether it’s our fault, not our fault. So this is a ‘thank you’ to them for putting that effort forward. I had to step-up and make it happen on restarts and sometimes you just have to have a little confidence in yourself. But the momentum shift, I think, should be really good for our program.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 7 2019
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