Cindric Survives Chess Match To Get Into 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 12 2021

Aric Almirola beats Christopher Bell to the finish line to wind Duel 1 at Daytona on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Austin Cindric’s mission was quite simple after a pit road speeding penalty cost him a lap in Thursday night’s first Bluegreen Vacations Duel – make sure Ryan Preece finished ahead of Ty Dillon. 

Accomplishing that goal would allow Cindric to make his NASCAR Cup debut in Sunday’s prestigious Daytona 500. If he failed and the finishing order was reversed, then Dillon was in the Daytona 500 and Cindric was out. 

“Obviously, Ty drove a really great race,” Cindric said. “I think he outdrove what he was driving, put himself in a great position. It’s unfortunate because he’s definitely a veteran of the series. I think he deserves to be in the race.” 

On the final lap, while Aric Almirola side-drafted Joey Logano just shy of the checkered flag to gain the advantage he needed for his first qualifying race victory, Cindric was pushing Preece with everything he could muster in his Team Penske Ford. 

“I got in a situation where guys started splitting off the top,” Cindric recounted. “The 37 (Preece) didn’t migrate off the top. I could see the guy who I wanted to push. I could see the guy who I wanted to push him by.

“When the 96 (Dillon) went down to the middle lane in (turns) three and four, I shoved for all I could. The last lap I didn’t care about anything else around me other than shoving. I think that’s probably the first time the entire race that I didn’t worry about who was in what car, hurting whose feelings. I never lifted.”

Cindric said he didn’t think Preece “really knew the scenario.”

“Even when I talked to him on pit road after the Duel, I don’t think he understood what the scenario was there,” Cindric continued. “I guess you can assure there was no bias.”   

Preece secured his starting position in the Daytona 500 field during Wednesday night’s one-lap qualifying session when he posted the eighth fastest lap overall. His 189.135-mph, 47.585-second lap also made him the fastest among the eight drivers required to make the field on time. David Ragan posted the second quickest lap among those eight drivers. That also guaranteed him a spot on the Daytona 500 grid. However, he was in the second qualifying race due to his 13th-fastest overall speed and Cindric didn’t want to rely on Ragan’s performance to determine his fate.,

“You always want to control what you can control,” Cindric commented.

 Cindric had only six laps of practice in his Cup car before his qualifying race. He had never driven his Ford in traffic or run 60 laps on a set of tires.  However, the student of the sport had spent hours watching the Duels, drafting and qualifying runs and qualifying SMT.

“I was up until 1 a.m. looking at SMT, looking at past races, listening to different spotters,” Cindric said. “I fell asleep at my computer. You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s the stressful thing.”

Even though it was Cindric’s first time driving a stock car with a digital dash the NASCAR Xfinity Series champion refused to cite that as the reason he sped on pit road. 

“You can definitely call it a rookie mistake, but it’s still my job,” Cindric said. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I’ve gone over it in great detail, the lights I need to hit. Honestly, I think I launched earlier than I should have. It was four-tenths of a mile an hour (over). There were a lot of first time things that were a lot harder than not speeding.”

Cindric finished 16th in the race that Almirola dominated. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led all but eight laps in the 60-lap event.  His victory means he will start third in the Daytona 500.

In Duel 2, Austin Dillon got a shove from behind from Kevin Harvick to beat Bubba Wallace to the checkered flag in overtime.

The margin of victory was .057-second

.It is the first Duel that Dillon has won and he did it leading the only two laps on the night, lap 33 and then the last lap (63).
“I was talking to spotter before the restart and he was like, ‘we’ve got the 4 (Harvick) behind us and he’s been pushing well all night’. He had the 12 [Ryan Blaney in a Ford, like Harvick] so I knew the manufacturer thing was going to be tough,” Dillon said.

(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.”)


NASCAR Cup Series Race – Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Thursday, February 11, 2021

  1. (2)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 60.
  2. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 60.
  3. (12)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 60.
  4. (11)  Joey Logano, Ford, 60.
  5. (5)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 60.
  6. (17)  Ty Dillon(i), Toyota, 60.
  7. (8)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 60.
  8. (6)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 60.
  9. (14)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 60.
  10. (18)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 60.
  11. (3)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 60.
  12. (9)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 60.
  13. (7)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 60.
  14. (13)  Cole Custer, Ford, 60.
  15. (16)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 60.
  16. (10)  Austin Cindric(i), Ford, 59.
  17. (15)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 59.
  18. (19)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 58.
  19. (20)  Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 57.
  20. (1)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 56.
  21. (21)  Cody Ware, Chevrolet, 56.
  22. (22)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, Overheating, 14.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  191.966 mph.

Time of Race:  0 Hrs, 46 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .041 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  0 for  laps.

Lead Changes:  9 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Bowman 0;A. Almirola 1-2;D. Suarez 3-4;C. Bell 5;A. Almirola 6;C. Bell 7-8;A. Almirola 9-33;D. Hamlin 34;T. Reddick 35-36;A. Almirola 37-60.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Aric Almirola 4 times for 52 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 3 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 2 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 1 lap.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 12 2021
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