Scoring a pair of victories and 14 top-five finishes, Austin Cindric put together a solid sophomore campaign in the NASCAR Xfinity Series en route to placing sixth in the standings.
The Team Penske driver recently reflected back on the season with POPULAR SPEED while covering a couple other topics.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as you look back on the season?
AUSTIN CINDRIC: It was a good season. Actually, to win races, going back-to-back, poles, lead laps, and be in contention, it’s been a great experience to have this year and work with the same team all year and hone in on all the little things. Hopefully it’s set us up well to have a championship year in 2020 because with the right pieces in place, I think we can be that team or at least set our eyes on the final four and hit the ground running.
PS: What was your favorite moment from the season?
CINDRIC: I think it’s hard to beat winning a race at Watkins Glen. I don’t think you can think of a better circumstance for your first win to race a veteran and a guy that I have a lot of respect for in A.J. Allmendinger. It was a pretty exciting finish for the fans. Obviously that’s a pretty good weekend up there with a sellout crowd. Pretty awesome to be able to do that.
Can’t really top that, but probably one of the more personal moments would be out-qualifying Kyle Busch for the pole at Bristol. I think that’s kind of a personal pat on the back. It was pretty unexpected as that’s his stadium. Definitely a cool moment.
PS: You had a lot of success this year, but what can you work on to be even better in 2020?
CINDRIC: I think a lot of it is little things. I think we’re definitely one of the most consistent teams in the garage area. I think it showed throughout the year and really helped us, but I think what’s going to make us a better team is not run top-five every week, but run top-three and get race wins and stage wins early in the year.
We lacked a significant points buffer in the playoffs. I had a bigger buffer than I’ve ever had in NASCAR, but definitely not enough to really help through the playoffs. Obviously we had the back weekend at Kansas and that kind of ended our year as we weren’t able to win the next two races. So that’s the way the format goes, and the best way to beat that is to beat everyone else. That starts at Daytona, all the way through the regular season. I think we can make our lives easier throughout the year.
Obviously we had some stiff competition with (Cole) Custer, (Christopher) Bell, and (Tyler) Reddick, and obviously those guys have earned incredible opportunities for next year and it’ll be fun to watch them. I think it’s definitely up to the next group of guys to step up, and I think we have the capability to be one of those guys every weekend.
PS: With the success you were able to have, how much does that boost your confidence?
CINDRIC: I don’t think my confidence has shifted. It’s still the same job, the same cars, the same group. We still have stuff to work on and get better as if you’re not getting better, you’re definitely falling behind. So I’ve definitely been trying to put my best foot forward through the off-season, whether it’s stuff we’re working on or going to the shop, and obviously the guys are working on the next steps to make our cars faster.
We actually have a new body kit with Ford Performance, a couple updates there. I’m obviously excited to see that car on track because the updates there are closer to the current model Mustang, the one I’m currently driving, but obviously it should hopefully give us some performance gain as well, big or small I don’t know.
PS: What would it mean to you to move up into the Cup Series one day?
CINDRIC: It’s what I’ve been working for the last few years. I’ve given up a lot of different opportunities and different types of racing to go do that. The person I am at this age at the level I am at, my goal is not to run trucks or Xfinity for the rest of my career. It’s to go race on Sundays against the best and work to be the best and prove that you are the best. That’s what this is all about and why I’m doing what I’m doing.
It’s been cool to have small opportunities to get a taste of what that is this year. I was able to get a taste and it’s all about working towards that. At the same time, I do think that you have to be ready and we have a lot of cases to show that those who aren’t ready or made the most of an opportunity, it goes away quick. So you have to ready to get an opportunity and those don’t come easy. I think this next year will be a very important year for me to get more prepared.
PS: Let’s say one race weekend, NASCAR says you can bring any three celebrities as guests of yours to a race. Who would you bring along?
CINDRIC: I’d bring Morgan Freeman because someone has to narrate the whole thing; I love him. I don’t know. I’m not much of a celebrity person. I think Steve-O from Jackass would be fun; he has some great stories so he’d be the entertainment. Amelia Clarke, and I like her so we’ll bring her, too.
PS: Do you have a hidden talent that people may not realize?
CINDRIC: I’m not sure I can call it a talent, but I played tuba in high school. I was good at it for a small portion of time but like most things, racing got in the way. I have been working on a project car for the last year or so – trying to get that done before Daytona so trying to make the most of the off-season doing that. I do like to wrench on my own cars. I like to have fun working on cars. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone as that’s what I do for a living. Other than that, I love racing. That’s kind of it.
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