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Cindric Defied Father, Won Title

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 8 2020

Austin Cindric is the 2020 Xfinity Series champion. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – When 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric informed his parents at age 10 that he wanted to be a race car driver they were not pleased with his decision.

Both were quite familiar with the difficult profession. His father, Tim Cindric, headed Team Penske. His mother, Megan, was the daughter of driver and team owner Jim Trueman. Her father was a two-time SCCA national champion, competed in IMSA, and owned the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winning car driven by Bobby Rahal as well as Mid-Ohio.

 “I told him from the very beginning when he was 10 years old that this really wasn’t the road I wanted him to take,” Tim Cindric said Saturday at Phoenix Raceway after his son recorded his sixth victory this season and the series championship. 

I told him when he was in high school that we’ve been able to help him a certain amount, and … that you’re going to have to go to college and do your thing or you’re going to have to find your own way up in the racing world.  There’s not a parachute for you from your mom and dad.”

Cindric’s father remained true to his word. The 22-year-old driver’s parents have been there for him, but not the parachute. This year marks the first time he has been with the same team for two consecutive years and even that was in jeopardy due to the pandemic. In mid-March, team owner Roger Penske considered shutting down Cindric’s Xfinity team for a few races “in order to see what’s going to happen.” That idea was scrapped after meetings. Still, Cindric knew his performance was critical if the team was to continue.  

That is in addition to the 6-foot-4 Cindric constantly being told he is too tall to drive race cars. He quickly counters that argument by pointing to 6-foot-5 Michael Waltrip and 6-foot-4 Justin Wilson. 

Then there is the age at which he started racing. Unlike many youngsters who commandeer go-karts or quarter-midgets when they are barely in elementary school, Cindric did not start his racing venture until nearly the middle grades. He began in Bandoleros and Legend cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Summer Shootout. He then traveled around the country with Steven Abbey racing Legend cars. Abbey acted as a “big brother”, teaching him to be tough and not take anything from anyone. When his next racing step arrived, Cindric had to put together his own rides and sponsors. He competed in sports and rally cars as well as an open-wheel series before settling in NASCAR. 

“The versatility in the schedule is something I really love about racing in NASCAR, and my career has been about being versatile,” Cindric noted. 

In 2017, Cindric competed in NASCAR’s Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing and finished third in the standings. The following year he split his time in the Xfinity Series between Roush-Fenway Racing and Team Penske. He did not become a fulltime Team Penske driver until 2019. Since then, his father has removed himself from his son’s career path, leaving that in the hands of Roger Penske, and Team Penske executives Vice President of Operations Michael Nelson and Competition Director Travis Geisler.

 “I had young Cindric come to my office in Detroit and we talked about it at length because the word was he would move into the 21 (Cup car),” Penske said. “When we sat down and talked about it, we knew the right thing was to make another year in Xfinity. Certainly, I told him you need to leave the end of this season a champion, and that’s exactly what he’s done.  This was not because of Tim Cindric. This was because of Austin Cindric.”.

Cindric has matured as a driver because he became a student of the sport, studying it and dissecting it. His road racing background served him well on those courses, but ovals were his Achilles Heel until July when he emerged victorious in a double-header at Kentucky Speedway. Cindric then won five of six races to tie a record set by series champion Sam Ard in 1983. 

“I’ve driven a lot of different cars, a lot of race tracks for a lot of teams and a lot of people,” Cindric said. “I’ve been exposed to a lot, and it’s taught me that a race car is a race car; it’s got a motor and four wheels. I feel like that perspective has helped me look at things clearly. I usually don’t make the same mistake twice because of that.

“My learning curve has required a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation, a lot of studying, a lot of self-criticism. It’s not about where you start, but it’s about how you grow yourself. Some of that comes through self-awareness.  

“On paper, there’s not a whole lot left, but for me there’s a lot more left to study. I’d like to find myself at a capacity where I can stay at the track on Sundays and watch from the spotters’ stand. I honestly think that helped me for this race.”

Cindric’s spotter Coleman Pressley has worked closely with him on his development. A third-generation driver, Pressley’s grandfather Bob was a Late Model Sportsman champion, his father Robert competed on weekly short tracks before advancing to NASCAR’s Cup Series, and Coleman raced Late Models. 

“Coleman has been like a big brother to me,” Cindric said. “He lives about two hours away from Mooresville and he makes the drive to … do a film review every week to where we talk about certain things.  I call him after every race. He sees the things that I’m doing (from up top) and gives me feedback from a driver’s perspective.”

When Cindric watches a Cup race with the spotters he stands beside Pressley.

 “I need a better perspective as a spotter just as his perspective as a driver helps me,” Cindric noted.   

 On Saturday at Phoenix Raceway, Cindric produced a championship performance. He led four times for 72 laps, and drove aggressively but cleanly. Even Allgaier, who led seven times for 76 laps and finished second in the title battle, admitted that Cindric had the better car.

 “I think every driver has to prove himself,” Tim Cindric said. “For him, I’ve always told him that what he needs to do is earn the respect of those that know him, those that are around him and those that are in the team. If he can earn the respect of the guys that work on that car every day, then you’ll start to earn the respect of everybody else. But the first thing you have to do is earn the respect of the people around him.

It’s a feat the young Cindric has accomplished.  

(Editor’s note: Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.”)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 8 2020
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