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Austin Cindric to make 100th Cup career start at Pocono

Competing in his third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Austin Cindric is poised to achieve a milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s Cup event at Pocono Raceway, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang Dark Horse will make his 100th career start in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native of Mooresville, North Carolina, Cindric made his inaugural presence in NASCAR’s premier series at the start of the 2021 season, where he attempted to qualify for the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February. By then, he was the reigning Xfinity Series champion and was initially set on joining Wood Brothers Racing for the 2022 Cup season.

Piloting the No. 33 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, Cindric earned a transfer spot for the 500 based on his qualifying speed and despite finishing 16th in his Daytona Duel event. His Cup debut during the Daytona 500 came to a fiery end in 15th place after he was involved in a vicious multi-car wreck on the final lap that involved his Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

He would then finish no higher than 22nd during his next three Cup scheduled starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Kansas Speedway. After finishing 25th at Circuit of the Americas, where he led four laps and finished in the top five during both stages, Cindric was poised for a strong run at Road America in July until he ended up 38th due to a late rear gear issue.

He capped off his part-time Cup campaign by claiming his first top-10 result in the series with a ninth-place run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in late July. By then, it was announced that Cindric would pilot Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford Mustang for the 2022 season, where he would replace Brad Keselowski. Keselowski, who was in his 12th year at Penske, would join Roush Fenway Racing as a driver and co-owner for the upcoming season.

Assuming command of the No. 2 car, Cindric rallied from missing the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by finishing second behind Keselowski in the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona. He then pulled an upset by winning the 64th running of the Daytona 500 and grabbing his first Cup Series career victory in his eighth series start after beating Bubba Wallace by 0.036 seconds in overtime while also blocking a late charge from teammate Ryan Blaney. I

n doing so, Cindric became the 41st different competitor to win the Great American Race, the ninth competitor to achieve a first-time win in the 500 and the second-youngest winner of the 500 at age 23. He also recorded the third Daytona 500 victory overall for Team Penske.

Following the 2022 Daytona 500 victory, Cindric notched his first Cup career pole for the following event at Auto Club Speedway, where he went on to finish 12th and lead the series standings for a second consecutive time. The North Carolina native would then notch only a single top-10 result, eighth at Circuit of the Americas, during the next 13 events on the schedule before posting a fifth-place result at Sonoma Raceway in June. F

rom there, Cindric managed to crack the top seven five times during the final 10 regular-season events on the schedule, including two third-place results and a runner-up finish at Indianapolis, before entering the 2022 Cup Playoffs as a Playoff competitor. Despite transferring from the Round of 16 to 12 amid three consecutive top-20 results, he missed the cutline to the Round of 8 after finishing 15th, ninth and 21st during the Round of 12’s three events.

Cindric went on to finish no higher than 11th during the final four events on the schedule before capping off his first full-time Cup campaign in 12th place in the final standings. By then, he was named the 2022 Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year recipient and had achieved a total of five top-five results, and nine top-10 results, with 86 laps led and an average finishing result of 16.3.

Cindric’s 2023 Cup season commenced on a low note, finishing in 23rd place after being involved in a final lap multi-car wreck. Following a 28th-place run during the following event at Auto Club Speedway, he posted two sixth-place finishes during his next four starts before finishing no higher than 13th during his next 11 starts. Managing another sixth-place result throughout the final nine regular-season events, Cindric did not make the Cup Series Playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Throughout the Playoffs, Cindric managed to claim his first and lone top-five result of the season by finishing fifth at Talladega Superspeedway in October before he finished ninth at Martinsville Speedway in November. Concluding the season in 35th place during the season-finale event at Phoenix Raceway, Cindric capped off his sophomore Cup season in 24th place in the final driver’s standings. By then, he had only accumulated a single top-five result, five top-10 results, with 33 laps led and an average finish of 21.6.

This season, Cindric notched a strong fourth-place result at Atlanta in February but was mired with 11 finishes of 20th or worse for the remaining 14 of the first 15 scheduled events. Then at World Wide Technology Raceway in early June, he capitalized on teammate Blaney running out of fuel on the final lap to snap an 85-race winless drought and notch his second Cup career victory while also racing his way into Playoff contention. He has since finished no higher than 15th twice during his five previous starts. Despite trailing the regular-season points lead by 282 points, he remains in pursuit of his first Cup Series championship when the 2024 Playoffs commence.

Through 99 previous Cup starts, Cindric has achieved two victories, one pole, eight top-five results, 17 top-10 results, 247 laps led and an average-finishing result of 19.7.

Austin Cindric is scheduled to make his 100th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, July 14, for the Great American Getaway 400. The event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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