By the time Austin Cindric entered the world of stock car racing, he’d put together a diverse racing portfolio from other motorsports disciplines. And while still just a teenager at that point, Cindric had all the confidence in the world that he could get in anything and be fast.
“I feel like that was the case — I feel like that still is the case,” said Cindric on The Racing Writer’s Podcast. “I feel like that’s something that is unique, and it’s what I love about the different paths my career has gone. But with all that, I’ve never had the chance or spent the time to stay in a certain car in a certain series for a number of years to really perfect the small details, get all 100 percent out of everything.”
Cindric was indeed fast in NASCAR, but he also earned plenty of criticism. Some pointed to the nepotism of Cindric being a Team Penske driver with his father, Tim, being the team president. Others were quick to point out his every mistake, aggressive nature and the contact Cindric made with others.
One memorable moment came when he spun Kaz Grala from the race lead at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2017 for his one and only Camping World Truck Series win. In Cindric’s first full season in the Xfinity Series, 2018, he wound up with six DNFs because of accidents. He finally won in 2019, but some critics dismissed those two victories because they came at road courses, where Cindric was expected to run well. Cindric didn’t earn his first NASCAR oval win until July 2020.
“NASCAR is supremely different from racing series where fast is 90 percent of the challenge and the [other] 10 percent is making it through the first few corners and then racing it out until the end. Whereas NASCAR is all racing,” continued Cindric. “I’ve never struggled with being fast in a NASCAR car, but it’s the race from how the track changes or how you race against other people or how you change your lane, all these different things of how to be a racer. I feel like my race craft and my mentality as a driver has significantly changed, and it’s been a benefit to me in other series as well.
“When I go back and run in IMSA, my comfort level being around other cars and my maneuverability and what I’m looking for out of the racetrack, what I’m looking for out of my car, are things I never would have learned if I wouldn’t have driven in NASCAR. I feel like I’ve grown so much more as a racer racing in NASCAR than I have anywhere else.”
Part of Cindric’s growth comes from spending three consecutive seasons in the Xfinity Series. Last month, Cindric earned his first NASCAR championship to cap off a season where he won the regular-season title and six races.
“It’s been difficult,” Cindric said of his development. “It’s probably been where a lot of criticism has (come from), not from the speed but from how I’ve carried myself as a driver on the track. Not personally, but just how I positioned my car and how I do certain things, whether it’s aggressive or getting yourself in bad positions. I feel like I’ve learned a tremendous amount — but everything I’ve learned has been on TV.
“Everything I’ve learned has been (at) a high level, so everyone has seen my mistakes, but everyone has also seen my growth, which I think is a bit unique because I never raced in late models; I hardly raced in K&N. I ran six ARCA races before I did my first season in trucks, so definitely a different path and probably took a lot of patience from those supporting me.
“But I’m glad a lot of those folks were able to stick with me and see the potential and obviously reward that investment with a championship this year.”
The full interview with Cindric can be heard below, or click here for the direct link.