Austin Cindric goes from relative obscurity to movie star in a single evening

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Who on this planet is Austin Cindric?

Because the 2022 Daytona 500 floor its option to the checkered flag, lastly ending a 3½ hour enduro race that put a dozen automobiles behind the wall and noticed 25 of the 40 automobiles within the area caught up in accidents (that is simply per the official field rating, just about each automobile ended the evening with harm), the American auto race that attracts extra eyeballs than some other had lots of people screaming at their TVs for the names they knew.

Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, even defending race champion Michael McDowell, loads of recognizable racers have been within the combine for the victory.

However Elliott completed tenth, Keselowski ninth, McDowell seventh and Busch sixth. Wallace, for the second time, got here up one spot in need of glory. The winner? A racer all these informal Daytona 500-only NASCAR viewers doubtless had by no means heard of. Now they’ve.

So, who on this planet is Austin Cindric? He is the 2022 Daytona 500 champion, that is who. However do not be ashamed or confused should you’d by no means heard of him earlier than Sunday evening. Avid NASCAR followers have been listening to about him since he was a child. However for the remainder of you, this is the what-you-need-to-know now that he is made himself recognized.

Cindric is humorous. “I did not pack an additional pair of underwear and now I’ve to go do media for just a few days, so I have to not have been that assured at this time.” Cindric talks super-fast. He mentioned that final underwear sentence in 1.2 seconds flat. He loves his mother. “She’s the spine of my profession. She made brownies for my crew and he or she tucked me in nonetheless in my firesuit after I might wrecked out for the third race in a row.”

He’s a 23-year-old NASCAR Cup Collection Rookie of the Yr candidate. That is proper, he is a rookie. On Sunday, he was making his eight Cup begin. Ever. After they engrave his identify onto the Harley J. Earl Trophy, he might be there by doing one thing solely 9 of the 64 drivers listed on the award have completed earlier than, incomes his first profession Cup Collection victory within the sport’s greatest occasion.

He gained the 2020 championship in NASCAR’s second-largest nationwide circuit, the Xfinity Collection, and got here inside .03 seconds of successful a second consecutive title final fall. In 133 profession Xfinity begins, he earned 13 wins and completed within the high ten 66% of the time. That is good. Like, excellent.

Cindric has all the time been good behind the wheel. So good that he has managed to outrun, for essentially the most half anyway, grumblings of a silver spoon racing life, the beneficiary of NASCAR nepotism.

You see, his father is Tim Cindric, the longtime president of Workforce Penske. That is the staff Austin Cindric drives for. His maternal grandfather, Jim Trueman, was a longtime IndyCar staff proprietor, successful the 1986 Indy 500 with driver Bobby Rahal, lower than two weeks earlier than Trueman died of most cancers, 12 years earlier than Austin was born. His paternal grandfather, Carl Cindric, was a Gasoline Alley staple, constructing legendary Offenhauser engines.

Should you rigorously scan images taken within the Indy 500 winner’s circle within the early 2000’s, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of somewhat Austin Cindric working round. He famously almost knocked over the Borg-Warner Trophy throughout a Helio Castroneves picture session at Indy’s yard of bricks.

However not solely was he not escorted right into a top-shelf journey by his father, dad tried to speak him out of racing in any respect.

“I all the time informed him that there was by no means going to be a parachute from mother and pa,” Tim Cindric mentioned Sunday evening. “He was in all probability ten years outdated and racing actually wasn’t the street I needed him to take. I informed him when he was in highschool that we would been in a position to assist him as much as then, however he was going to should go to varsity or if he went racing, he’d have to search out his personal approach in racing.”

Roger Penske, the 14-time Indy 500 and now three-time Daytona 500 successful staff proprietor, confirmed that story as truth. However he additionally recalled seeing child Austin taking part in with racecars in his bed room again dwelling in Ohio. And he remembered when preteen Austin earned his first win within the Bandolero Collection. Penske and longtime righthand man Walt Czarnecki weren’t there for that first win, however they confirmed up the following week and he gained once more.

“I’ve recognized him his complete life and seen him develop up. He is household,” mentioned Penske, who additionally celebrated his eighty fifth birthday Sunday. “However I believe that anybody who is aware of me additionally is aware of that I am not within the enterprise of simply placing folks in race automobiles as a result of I do know them, or I’m near them. They should carry out, plain and easy. He has carried out. If we did not put him in one in every of our automobiles, another person would have accomplished it.”

“He has been essentially the most influential particular person in my life outdoors of my mother and father, and that is not about racing,” Cindric mentioned of the boss, whom he shortly mentioned was not simply that, his boss. “It is how he treats different folks. It is how he treats his household. I study from him on a regular basis. To earn his belief to drive his automobiles, it is the best praise I might ever have.”

Cindric raced sportscars. He gained a Truck Collection race in 2017. Then he obtained a shot within the Xfinity Collection journey and he wasn’t nice. “Should you had come to me in 2018 after I spun out in entrance of your complete Xfinty area (at Watkins Glen) and mentioned, ‘Hey, in the future you will win the Daytona 500!’ I might have mentioned, bulls—.”

It took him 54 tries to lastly win a race. Then he gained 12 instances over the following 79 races. When Keselowski, who employed Cindric to drive for his Truck Collection staff, left Workforce Penske after the 2021 season to develop into a driver-owner with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, Penske determined to place Cindric within the legendary No. 2 Ford, made well-known by Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch and Keselowski.

He is batting 1.000 in that automobile.

“Sure, he is had quite a lot of alternatives,” Cindric’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, defined Sunday evening. “When he is gotten alternatives, he taken benefit of it. He is gained. He research. He works so onerous.”

It brings to thoughts an incredible quote a few years in the past from Richard Petty, who obtained his first Cup Collection journey by way of his NASCAR Corridor of Fame father Lee after which went on to place his personal son and grandson in automobiles raced beneath the household banner: “That race automobile could not care much less what your final identify is or who your daddy is. You’ll be able to both drive it or you’ll be able to’t.”

Austin Cindric can drive it. Those that carefully comply with and make their dwelling in motorsports, they already knew that. So did Roger Penske. Now, the entire world is aware of it.

“I am not an externally motivated particular person or externally intimidated particular person,” he mentioned Sunday evening when requested about those that have whispered about development coming due to his final identify. “My head’s within the sport just about 24/7. I do not take into consideration the rest however racing. I haven’t got a lot of a social life. I simply go the raceshop… if there’s something left to show, I am undecided what it’s.”

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