Team Penske NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Report
Track: The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL
Race: Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
Date: October 10, 2020
No. 22 Wurth Ford Mustang – Austin Cindric
Stage 1: 13th
Stage 2: 4th
Laps Completed: 68/68
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 2nd (-10)
Austin Cindric started 11th and finished sixth in the most unpredictable race of the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. The driver of the WURTH Ford used his 23rd top-10 finish of the season to advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs. Cindric showed speed early in the dry conditions but torrential rain soon began to fall, forcing the team into a conservative strategy to ensure they’d advance in the playoffs.
At the onset of the race, Cindric made a power move at the drop of the green flag, stacking traffic four-wide into Turn 1 and picking off six positions in the opening lap with the No. 22 Wurth Ford Mustang. The team elected to put on rain tires under the first caution on lap 4 plus make a significant chassis adjustment preparing for the wet conditions, which had arrived as quickly as the race began. Unfortunately, NASCAR was forced to throw the yellow flag again at lap 15 for unsafe conditions as the rain intensified and the track accumulated standing water.
Cindric took a cautious approach to the remaining laps in the first stage, remaining focused on the championship pursuit, and was credited with a 13th-place finish position when the segment ended on lap 20. He relayed to crew chief Brian Wilson during the stage caution that he was too tight to make any progress through the field, so Wilson made the call to pit and put on the team’s final set of rain tires on plus make a significant air pressure adjustment to the front tires.
The adjustments greatly improved the handling of the Wurth Mustang. Cindric moved from outside the top-20 to 15th position before the race was halted again on lap 30 for standing water on the track, delaying the event for an hour.
When racing resumed, Cindric picked his way through a multi-vehicle incident in Turn 4, moving his No. 22 Mustang back inside the top-10. When the green-flag was displayed again, Cindric picked up four positions, returning to the top-five before the sixth caution was displayed on lap 38.
With a spot in the Round of Eight within reach, Cindric settled back into a conservative rhythm, logging laps after pitting for fuel to make the finish as darkness began to settle over Charlotte Motor Speedway. As other competitors continued to have issues, Cindric clinched his place in the Round of 8 during the final stage and set his sights on finishing the race in treacherous conditions fueled by heavy rain and dwindling daylight. He stayed out of trouble and cleanly logged laps to the finish and was rewarded with a sixth-place finish at the checkered flag.
Cindric opens the Round of 8 at Kansas Speedway next Saturday, second in the standings, trailing the lead by only 10 points.
Quote: “Advancing to the Round of 8 is a box checked for us. Obviously, we weren’t in a super tight spot heading into today, but that was kind of my only goal after it started raining. I got off to a pretty aggressive foot there to try and establish track position in the dry, and I think that got us the fastest lap of the race as well, so that’s a positive. After it started raining we were pretty conservative as far as my driving, the strategy and after we got into a place where we could advance I started being able to peck my way up through the field and finish inside the top-10 with our WURTH Ford Mustang.”