Xfinity Penske chance a ‘dream scenario’ for Austin Cindric

Image by Russell LaBounty/LAT

Xfinity Penske chance a ‘dream scenario’ for Austin Cindric

NASCAR

Xfinity Penske chance a ‘dream scenario’ for Austin Cindric

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A Team Penske video montage of its greatest hits from 2018 included just about everything. Presented Monday during a media event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the video highlighted each win from the team’s NASCAR, IndyCar, Supercars and IMSA programs. Also shown were the championship feats for Joey Logano in NASCAR and Scott McLaughlin (Supercars).

Noticeably absent was a win for Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric. While Cindric was featured in the video, it mentioned how fast he was at a particular track and his pole award at Mid-Ohio. Although he ran the full schedule last year between Penske and Roush Fenway Racing, he only had 24 races for Penske but now gets the No. 22 Ford full-time this year.

“Oh, you definitely want to do more, that’s for sure,” Cindric told RACER of adding better highlights to the season review video. “We obviously came close a few too many times than I’d like to have been.”

Iowa, Mid-Ohio, the Charlotte road course are just a few races to recall. Cindric led 130 laps between the three and also won the pole for each race. At Mid-Ohio, he was passed inside the final 10 laps by Justin Allgaier and finished second. He wound up third in Charlotte.

Cindric and crew chief Brian Wilson with his Team Penske Ford at Iowa. (Image by Barry Cantrell/NKP/LAT)

“It’s definitely a dream scenario for me with everything that’s going on for 2019 between (sponsor) MoneyLion and getting to drive full-time for Team Penske,” Cindric continued. “I’m very excited, very lucky to be in the position that I am with as little experience I have in stock cars. I know that we’re more than capable of getting it done on any type of racetrack … you name it, we’ve got cars that are competitive enough for it and I feel like I’ve got enough of a notebook to do it as well.

“The big picture is the championship, and Daniel Hemric proved you don’t have to win a race to make the Championship 4 — you have to be on it, you’ve got to get playoff points throughout the year, and that’s the goal.”

Putting the close calls aside, Cindric also encountered plenty of disappointment last season. In 33 races he had seven DNFs with an average finish of 17th. Being turned by Ryan Truex off Turn 4 at Darlington just two laps into the race led to a season’s worth of emotions boiling to the surface.

Cindric didn’t admit to having a chip on his shoulder now that 2019 is fast approaching, but he acknowledged there are races circled on his calendar.

“You want to show up at places like Mid-Ohio and Road America and a few others, Iowa, and know you’re capable of winning and you probably should have been in victory lane the last time you were there — but you can’t look back,” Cindric said. “You have to have a short memory. The way I’ve always run my career is one race at a time.

Cindric’s 2018 Daytona race takes a turn for the worse. (Image by Russell LaBounty/LAT)

“My next goal is to finish a stock car race at Daytona — the last time I was there I was on my lid. So, we’ll check that box and head to Atlanta and do the same. One day at a time. For me, I’m in a pretty fortunate situation with the people surrounding me and looking forward to exploring that continuity and being able to execute races this year.”

Despite his busy 2018 going back and forth between two teams, Cindric finished eighth in the standings. Asked what he’s looking forward with a new season, Cindric said the continuity of having the same group around him each week led by crew chief Brian Wilson, going through the same pre-race preparation, and even who the competition is going to be.

“The way I look at it, the top competitors haven’t changed,” Cindric said. “You got guys like Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer — those guys were the guys to beat all year last year as Xfinity regulars, so those are the guys I’m still going to have to beat and those are the guys that I raced against at the tail end of last year.

“That also doesn’t change how I’m going to approach the weekend, how I set up my race cars — they’re just the same guys I have to beat. So, in some ways it’s nice to have that continuity… you know how they race and I’m looking forward the battles and the fun and the tight racing.”

All of which hopefully will produce some highlights for the Team Penske video at the end of the season.

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