Cindric At COTA: Welcome To European Adventure

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 22 2021

Kyle Busch hits the apex of Turn 20 during Xfinity Series practice at the Circuit of the Americas on Friday. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas – Austin Cindric exited Circuit of The Americas following Friday’s opening NASCAR Xfinity Series practice atop the speed chart, albeit with questions about tire wear, restarts _ and who in the wide world of motorsports named this place?

“It’s funny because it’s called Circuit of The Americas, but it’s like the most European racetrack we have in the States,” said Cindric, the reigning Xfinity series champion and an accomplished road-racer. “So, I definitely feel like it has different character traits. Obviously, character traits are a lot more suited to high-speed, high-downforce vehicles in Formula One and INDYCAR and so on, so I feel like in our cars a lot of those (20) corners slowed down are a lot different.”

The Xfinity point-leader, Cindric wheeled his No. 22 Ford Mustang fielded by Team Penske to an average speed of 89.100 mph around COTA’s 3.41-mile/20-turn layout. The track was designed and purpose-built as home to the U.S. Grand Prix on the FIA’s Formula One World Championship schedule.

“It adds a new dynamic for us,” said Cindric, anticipating Saturday’s scheduled 10:05 a.m. (CDT) qualifying session for the inaugural Pit Boss 250 at noon. “I think you’re gonna see different things out of our races than you probably would have out of a Formula One race here. So I think that’s something that the locals that have come out to this racetrack should be excited about, but I wouldn’t say there’s really anywhere else in the country quite like it. I’d say there are places in Europe like it, but not over here.”

Cindric finished second in the lone Xfinity Series road-course event of the season to-date, at Daytona International Speedway in February. Cindric has posted three victories during the season’s first 10 races. As noted, Friday’s 50-minute session under a sunny Hill Country sky left Cindric with plenty to consider overnight. Among them is the weather, with a 70 percent chance of showers forecast to begin in mid-morning and continue into the afternoon.

Should the rain fall, the Xfinity race and companion NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 225 will go on as scheduled with Goodyear providing wet weather tires, if necessary. However, NASCAR’s road-course rain rule does not allow competition during thunderstorms with lightning in the area or during heavy downpours.

Big old heavy NASCAR vehicles took to the paddocks at the Circuit of the Americas on Friday. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairris)

Booked for 90 laps/156 miles, the Xfinity race is scheduled for 3 p.m. (FOX Sports 1, PRN Radio).

“There are a lot of unknowns,” said Cindric, specifically citing tire wear and restarts. “I think (Goodyear Eagle) tire wear is gonna be more than I expected just kind of looking back at what the tire test looked like from here a couple months ago. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the limitations are.

“When it comes to wet weather, I think this racetrack doesn’t really have much of a rain line, so I don’t think anyone is gonna have more experience than the other guy.  If I’m able to get the opportunity to practice that (Saturday morning) in the Cup car, I’ll probably take full advantage of it given that it’s a factor all weekend.  There’s definitely a lot to learn on the car setup as well as on my driving, so I think that definitely provides a different opportunity.”

Daniel Hemric was second-fast in his No. 18 Toyota Supra fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing at 89.057 mph. Tyler Reddick, driving the No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro fielded by Jordan Anderson Racing, posted a speed of 88.980 mph. Reddick was fastest among the five Cup Series drivers entered here. Xfinity road-course ace A.J. Allmendinger, driving the flagship No. 16 Camaro fielded by Kaulig Racing, was fifth at 88.565 mph.

The NASCAR Truck Series will race on Saturday in Austin. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairiss)

Among the topographical challenges COTA ‘s natural terrain layout presents, Cindric said, is an “extremely abrasive” surface. “I walked the track this (Friday) morning and it’s got a lot of age,” Cindric said. “It’s a very similar kind of coarse-molded, pebbly-looking surface to Homestead or Darlington, so that should obviously add a lot of strategy dynamics Saturday and Sunday.

“I think our cars get affected a lot more by the bumps than most cars that I’ve driven outside of NASCAR, so any of the bumps and track surface changes (are a concern). This track has aged a lot. I’ve heard it’s sunk into the ground quite a lot since it was first built, so there’s a lot of whoops that aren’t very big in some cars and are pretty effective in our cars, so I think that’s probably the biggest takeaway.

“It’s something I expected, but it’s always kind of the biggest difference in driving these cars, other than the fact they’re heavy and have a lot of power and not a lot of grip.”


Zane Smith, NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series 2020 Rookie of the Year, paced a field of 43 entries during Friday’s lone practice at Circuit of The Americas for Saturday’s inaugural Toyota Tundra 225.

Smith toured COTA’s 3.41-mile/20-turn natural-terrain layout at 89.348 mph in his No. 21 Chevrolet Silverado fielded by GMS Racing during a 50-minute session. Truck qualifying is set for 8:05 a.m. (CDT) for a race scheduled for 79 laps/139.81 miles. Live coverage will begin at noon (FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio).

Last year’s most popular Truck Series driver, Smith was followed by reigning series champion Sheldon Creed at 89.128 mph in his No. 2 Chevy. Veteran Grant Enfinger was third at 88.653 mph in his No. 9 Silverado fielded by CR7 Motorsports. The tour’s most recent road -course winner, Ben Rhodes, was fourth overall in the No. 99 Bombardier Toyota Tundra fielded by ThorSport Racing at 88.464 mph.

“In a situation like this you’re never going to have enough practice,” Smith said. “I feel like we had a pretty smooth practice, we had the adjustments that we wanted to try. Some worked, some didn’t, but luckily we had a pretty clean track for most of the session. We unloaded with a fast truck and it really says a lot about the whole No. 21 team and GMS racing in general.”

Parker Chase, an IMSA regular driving the No. 51  Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, was fastest among the road-racing specialists at 11th overall at 87.725 mph.

Prestige Performance was quickest in the IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series’ first practice session Friday with a lap time of 2 minutes, 09.005-seconds around the 3.41-mile/20-turn Circuit of The Americas layout. O’Gara Motorsports led the second practice at 2:08.731.

IMSA teams are scheduled for two qualifying sessions Saturday morning. First of two 50-minute timed races for the weekend is set for Saturday at 6:50 p.m. (CDT). The final IMSA race is scheduled to start at noon on Sunday.

NASCAR’s Cup Series drivers will turn their first official hot laps around Circuit of The Americas during a 50-minute practice set for 9:05 a.m. Saturday. It is the only Cup track activity scheduled Saturday leading into Sunday’s inaugural EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix. 

On Sunday, Cup teams are booked for two sessions of group qualifying starting at 10 a.m. to set the field for a race covering 115 laps/231 miles. The green flag is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (FOX Sports 1, PRN Radio). 

Tickets remain available for the NASCAR at COTA weekend and can be purchased by visiting www.NASCARatCOTA.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 22 2021
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