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All-Star Race Is Next Up On Cindric’s Hit List

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2022

Austin Cindric’s full-time Cup career got off to a big start as he won the Daytona 500 in February. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Austin Cindric raised the bar on his rookie NASCAR Cup Series campaign ridiculously high by winning the 2022 season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.

Cindric’s overtime victory at Daytona International Speedway in what is billed as “The Great American Race” and “NASCAR’s Super Bowl” was scored in his eighth series start.

So…what to do for an encore? How about winning the 38th annual NASCAR All-Star Race and its $1-million payday Sunday evening at Texas Motor Speedway?

“I’d have a million more dollars in my pocket, that’s for sure,” said Cindric, 23, and a rising star with Team Penske.  “To win the Daytona 500 is one thing and the All-Star Race _ I can’t think of any better way to do it. That’s my goal every time I show up at the racetrack but it’s obviously a unique event and pretty cool to be in the All-Star Race as a rookie.”

The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and runnerup last year, Cindric is driving the No. 2 Ford Mustang vacated by 2012 Cup champ Brad Keselowski’s move to Roush Fenway Racing as co-owner. Cindric prepped for his fulltime Cup ride by competing in seven races last year, earning a top-10 result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cindric followed his win at DIS by qualifying on-pole at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calf. He also has an eighth-place finish on Circuit of The America’s Formula One-approved road-course outside Austin, Texas, along with 32 laps-led, through 13 starts. His Daytona 500 victory not only assured Cindric a spot in NASCAR’s post-season Playoffs, it also punched his ticket into Sunday night’s four-segment/125-lap All-Star Race main event.

“I feel last year gave me a pretty good groundwork and expectation about running Cup,” said Cindric, a native of Columbus, Ohio. “It’s just been a confirmation on how challenging this series is, how competitive the drivers are and on top of that a brand new race car that we’re all having to do a lot of calculated guesswork on, showing up at the racetrack with limited track time.” That’s a reference to NASCAR’s new-for-22 “Next Gen” lineup introduced by OEM partners Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.

“So, Texas will be no different for us,” Cindric said. “We’ll be trying to build a race-winning car and execute on it.”

That’s the latest task assigned to Cindric and crew chief Jeremy Bullins _ gather notes from the All-Star Race that could help the No. 2 team when the series returns for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Playoff race here on Sunday, Sept. 25.

“Because this is a non-points race it gives us an opportunity to be aggressive if we find an area to do so,” Cindric said. “If we miss it, we miss it and it’s not that big a deal. It’s not going to affect our season, but we definitely look at the All-Star Race as important and historic to win and there’s money on the line.”

Coverage of All-Star Race activity will begin today at 5 p.m. (EDT) on FOX Sports 1 with NASCAR RaceDay. The NASCAR Open will begin at 6 p.m. on FS1 along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and MRN. The All-Star Race is booked for two hours of live coverage beginning at 8 p.m., also on FS1.

Austin’s father, Tim, is one of the most prominent and influential figures in motorsports as president of Team Penske. NASCAR Hall of Famer Roger Penske has built an empire that includes ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NTT Indy Car Series. Given that connection, Austin said his attention during the Month of May is split between his NASCAR job and activity surrounding the 106th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.

Second day qualifying for pole position in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is scheduled for Sunday afternoon around the famed 2.5-mile oval Austin knows so well.

“Yeah, I can say that this is the first time I haven’t been to an Indy 500 during the Month of May really since I was 2-years-old,” Cindric said. “And I knew that going into last year, racing the Coke 600 is on the same day (May 29). For me to function in my job I’ve got to be at Charlotte (Motor Speedway). I’ve got a lot of passion for the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 certainly is a race that I love. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever watched it on TV.”

Austin said his decision to chase a career in motorsports was anything but his father’s dream scenario.

“I’ve been really fortunate to have two parents who really understand the industry and the challenges,” Austin said. “And I think that’s why my father never like wanted to push me into racing because he knows how difficult it is and it had to be something I wanted to do. It was something I wanted to do and something I had to work on if it was something they were going to do and I was going to like_ if that makes sense.

“I think he’d definitely rather see me pick up a basketball and shoot around with my buddies and have normal life. But I guess I’ve never been accused of being normal.

“Yeah, this racing career certainly has been supported by my parents. My mom (Megan) has been one of the most influential people _ she’s been my support system through the entire process. Whether that’s been travelling with me a lot when I was a kid, being someone I could always call and vent to about certain things _ she’s always got my back. So, she’s honestly been boots on the ground for the entire thing.”

All that said, Cindric occasionally allows his thoughts to envision a one-off attempt at racing in the Indy 500…with a certain team. 

“It’s really not something, an envelope, I look at pushing in the near future,” Cindric said. “I’ve got a pretty good opportunity out in front of me racing stock cars and my home has been in NASCAR for really the last five or six years. The Indy 500 is an event that I have a lot of family history, even going a lot deeper than just driving race cars. So it’s something I definitely have my eyes on and given the right opportunity, I’d love to do it someday.”

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing). 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2022
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