While Austin Cindric is set to contend for his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, he is also set to achieve a milestone start in his third full-time season in the series. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s Xfinity season finale at Phoenix, Cindric will reach 100 starts in the Xfinity level.
A native from Columbus, Ohio, Cindric made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Road America in August 2017. By then, he was a full-time NASCAR Truck Series competitor for Brad Keselowski Racing. Driving the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang for Team Penske, Cindric started on pole position and he finished in 16th place after making a late pit stop under green due to cutting a left-rear tire.
Three months later and three days after Cindric concluded the 2017 Truck Series season in third place in the final standings, Roush Fenway Racing announced that Cindric will be splitting driving duties of the No. 60 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing along with Chase Briscoe and Ty Majeski for the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
In February, nearly a week before the 2018 season commenced, Cindric’s racing schedule became a full-time schedule when it was announced that he will be driving the Nos. 12 and 22 Ford Mustangs for Team Penske along with his part-time racing role with Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 Ford, thus making him eligible for the 2018 Xfinity Playoffs and the Dash 4 Cash events.
Cindric’s 2018 season started off on a low note when he was involved in an early multi-car wreck at Daytona International Speedway and finished in last place of the 40-car field while driving Roush’s No. 60 Ford. He rallied the following week at Atlanta Motor Speedway by collecting his first top-10 result, seventh place, while driving the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske.
Throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, Cindric recorded a total of three top-five results, eight top-10 results and his first two career poles. By then, his best on-track result was second place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he started on pole position, led a race-high 59 of 75 laps and was leading in the closing laps before being overtaken by eventual winner Justin Allgaier. Despite being involved in a rollover accident at Daytona in July, losing 35 points following Bristol in August due to a lug nut infraction and posting three consecutive DNFs near the conclusion of the regular season that dropped him to 12th place in the standings, Cindric was able to claim a spot in the Playoffs. By then, his part-time stint with Roush Fenway Racing concluded as he transitioned to the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang for the Playoffs.
In the first round of the Playoffs, spanning three races, Cindric posted results of 13th, third and eighth to advance into the second round. In the first Playoff race of the second round at Kansas Speedway, he was involved in a multi-car wreck at the start of the race and finished in 39th place. Despite finishing third and fourth the following two races, he was one of four competitors who were eliminated from title contention. He went on to finish fifth in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and conclude his first full-time Xfinity season in eighth place in the standings.
A week before the 2018 season concluded, Team Penske announced that Cindric will be remaining in the Xfinity Series for the 2019 season and drive the No. 22 Ford Mustang on a full-time basis with MoneyLion to sponsor him for 18 races and Brian Wilson to serve as his crew chief. It was all in part of a new multi-year deal.
Cindric started the 2019 Xfinity season on a strong note at Daytona by finishing in fifth place. Through the first 19 races of the season, he posted one pole, five top-five results, 13 top-10 results and 30 laps led, with a best on-track result of second place at Richmond Raceway in April behind Cole Custer. By then, he was in fifth place in the regular-season standings.
The following race at Watkins Glen International, Cindric made a late charge on fresh tires and outlasted a late battle against road course ringer A.J. Allmendinger to score his first Xfinity Series career victory in his 54th series start. He backed it up the following race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his home track, by leading a race-high 46 laps and running away from the field to claim his second consecutive victory of the season and of his career.
Following his first two career victories in the Xfinity Series, Cindric posted two additional top-five results, including a runner-up finish at Road America behind race winner Christopher Bell, and three additional top-10 results for the remaining five regular-season races before entering the Playoffs and with another opportunity to win his first Xfinity title.
In the first round of the 2019 Playoffs, Cindric recorded podium results in all three races and advanced into the Round of 8. Like last season, Cindric ran into on-track issues during the first Round of 8 Playoff event at Kansas. Starting third, he fell behind early due to a loose wheel. Near the halfway point, he suffered a pair of cut tires on the right side of his No. 22 Ford Mustang, which cost him six laps behind the leaders. When the checkered flag flew, he finished in 25th place, six laps down, and was scored 77 points below the top-four cutline.
Cindric and the No. 22 Penske team rallied the following two Playoffs races by finishing third and sixth. The results, however, were not enough for him to transfer into the Championship 4 round for the second consecutive season. After finishing in seventh place in the season finale at Homestead, Cindric concluded his sophomore Xfinity Series season in sixth place in the final standings.
Returning for a second full-time season with Team Penske, Cindric started the 2020 season on a low note at Daytona by being involved in a late multi-car accident and finishing in 25th place. He rallied with three consecutive top-10 results the following three races, with a best result of second place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February behind race winner and former teammate Chase Briscoe.
When NASCAR returned to on-track racing at Darlington Raceway in May amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cindric finished fourth. The following race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he led 30 laps and was leading on the final lap when he was overtaken by Kyle Busch on the final corner. He ended the race in third place after being overtaken by runner-up Daniel Hemric.
Since Darlington Raceway in May through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix Circuit, Cindric and the No. 22 Team Penske Ford team achieved five top-five results and were ranked in fourth place in the regular-season standings.
The following two races at Kentucky Speedway, Cindric claimed his first elusive pair of victories of the season. It all started on Thursday, July 9, when he emerged with the lead in the late stages. Leading a total of 41 laps, Cindric pulled away from Chase Briscoe on an overtime restart and under caution on the final lap to collect his third series career win and first on an oval-shaped venue. For the second Kentucky event on Friday, July 10, he led a race-high 130 of 200 laps and beat Briscoe by more than two seconds to score his second victory of the season and to sweep both Kentucky races.
Cindric’s momentum throughout the summer months continued as he was awarded his third consecutive victory of the season the following race at Texas Motor Speedway when initial winner Kyle Busch was disqualified due to his car failing post-race technical inspection. After leading 131 laps and finishing second the following race at Kansas, Cindric notched back-to-back victories for the second time this season after winning at Road America and NASCAR’s first event at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.
Cindric went on to post four additional top-five results and six additional top-10 results for the remainder of the regular-season stretch. When the 2020 Xfinity Playoffs started, he finished in sixth place at Las Vegas. He was involved in a late accident the following week at Talladega, where he finished 34th, but he collected a bevy of stage points prior to the wreck, which kept him above the top-12 cutline entering the first Playoff elimination event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. For that event, he finished sixth and transferred into the Round of 8.
Cindric’s title hopes were put on jeopardy during the first Round of 8 event at Kansas when he was involved in an early multi-car incident involving Playoff contenders Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson. Despite sustaining substantial damage, Cindric’s crew repaired the car and the driver was able to maintain minimum speed to continue. When the checkered flag flew, he finished in 28th place, 27 laps behind the leaders. Nonetheless, he remained above the top-four cutline to the finale by two points.
After finishing fourth the following Playoff race at Texas, he remained 14 points above the cutline to the finale entering the final elimination event at Martinsville Speedway, which occurred last weekend. At Martinsville, he started on pole position and led the first 42 laps before he got shuffled out of race-winning contention. While racing conservatively around the pack, he finished in 10th place and locked himself a spot to the Championship 4 round for the first time in his career, where he will contend for his first NASCAR Xfinity Series title against Chase Briscoe, Justin Allgaier and Justin Haley this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, the season finale.
In 99 Xfinity Series career starts, Cindric has won seven races. He has also achieved seven poles, 39 top-five results, 62 top-10 results, three Playoff appearances, over 1,200 laps led and an average result of 11.7.
Cindric is set to return for his fourth full-time season in the Xfinity Series in 2021 with Team Penske. In addition, he plans to compete in select NASCAR Cup Series races with Penske next season before driving in the premier series full-time and in the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in 2022.
Catch Cindric’s milestone start and pursuit of his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Phoenix Raceway, the site of the finale, on Saturday, November 7. The event will start at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.