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Family Ties, 2021 Victory Make Racing at Indy Special for Cindric

Austin Cindric understands the need to update one of his memorable quotes.

After winning last year’s Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard, NASCAR Xfinity Series’ race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Cindric said there was “nothing bigger” than winning at the track that means so much to his family. He has since won the Daytona 500, the signature race of NASCAR’s Cup Series, which necessitated the update.

“If I could change my words it would be, ‘Nothing more meaningful than winning at Indy,’ because that’s my family’s history in racing, no doubt,” he said. “But I guess winning the Daytona 500 is the biggest.”

At least for now, of course. If Cindric’s career continues to progress – and remember, he is only 23 years old with a single Cup Series victory in hand – he plans to ask his father, Tim, Team Penske’s president, and team owner Roger Penske to provide him a ride in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“I’ve always said that I need to have some form of leverage to earn my place,” Cindric said. “After I won (Daytona), I was asked by some people if this is enough? I’m like, ‘Hey, I need to focus on my day job right now,’ but one day I want to do it.

“I’ve not had the conversation (with Penske), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he knows the interest is there. Let me tell you, that man pays attention. I wore a new color of shoes (for the July 10 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he finished third) and I got a text that said, ‘Nice work, nice shoes.’”

There are a lot of reasons to pay attention to what Cindric is accomplishing in a stock car. He won the 2020 Xfinity Series championship and nearly repeated last year. Before moving to Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford, Cindric had amassed 13 wins in Xfinity, including the victory at IMS.

Cindric will enter Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) 13th in points in the standings, with his Daytona 500 victory helping his chances of assuring a playoff position. He already has his first Cup Series pole, earned at the Feb. 27 race at Auto Club Speedway. Over the past six races, he has four top-10 finishes.

The Daytona 500 victory was signature not only for crossing the finish line ahead of the pack, as Cindric executed a classic restrictor-plate block on teammate Ryan Blaney, who was charging on the outside. Blaney had been a loyal teammate in the closing laps, protecting and pushing Cindric at every opportunity, but Cindric said he had to do what was needed to win the race.

“It’s my job to win the race,” he said. “Ryan’s been the best teammate as anyone could ask for as far as being loyal. But the conversation we had as an organization was, one of us has to cross the finish line first. We both put ourselves in position to have a chance. Ryan backed up, got a run, tried to take it, and I blocked it and won the race.

“It’s obviously the biggest (NASCAR) race to win, and I don’t think you can have a single regret trying to win it.”

Cindric then had to outrun Bubba Wallace to the finish line, where the separation was .036 of a second. Blaney settled for fourth place.

“That’s far in the past now,” Blaney said. “At the time I wasn’t too good with (the block), but I’ve gotten over it.”

Despite the importance of the Daytona 500 victory, racing at IMS will always have special meaning for Cindric. His father, an Indianapolis native, joined Team Penske in October 1999 and has helped the organization win the Indianapolis 500 eight times, three times as the strategist of Helio Castroneves, Austin Cindric’s all-time favorite driver.

Both of Austin Cindric’s grandfathers made significant impacts on the Speedway, too. Carl Cindric built engines; Jim Trueman was the car owner of Bobby Rahal’s 1986 race-winning entry. Trueman also owned the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, making it a signature stop on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES circuit.

Cindric never missed Indy until 2020 when the event was held in August as he raced in Dover, Delaware. As a youngster, he fears he annoyed team members by always being in the thick of things.

“I would take anything and get it signed, like if there was a Firestone hat from the podium, I’d take the hat and I wouldn’t just get the drivers to sign it, I’d have Roger sign it, the truck drivers, the mechanics … everybody,” he said. “I’d have anyone and everyone sign it just because I thought they were important and as a driver now I certainly know they’re important.”

When Cindric became a driver, his uncle, Colin Trueman, handed over an important piece of family history. Colin had carried a pair of his father’s racing gloves in his gear bag as he competed in Atlantics and Indy Lights; Cindric now does the same. Those gloves go everywhere with him.

In Cindric’s office are one of Jim Trueman’s helmets, and in the family’s collection are one of Carl Cindric’s helmets and a pair of his racing goggles. It’s not widely discussed that Carl Cindric once had a license to race in NASCAR, and his offspring have that framed.

“That’s cool how it’s come full circle with me,” Cindric said.

It’s interesting that Cindric shared most of his rise through the motorsports ranks with his mother, the former Megan Trueman, because her schedule allowed when Tim Cindric’s schedule with Team Penske didn’t.

“She was my travel companion, my roommate, my therapist,” he said. “She packed the cooler when we went to Summer Shootout. She obviously has been around the sport a long time and worked at racetracks, like Mid-Ohio. Mom’s been everything for me.”

These days, Cindric is with his father more often, although he avoids conversation during team meetings that his father leads.

“Oh, I don’t talk to him,” Cindric said in that folksy chuckle he shares with his father. “I know I’m going to lose any battle that I pick with him because if I give him the smallest opportunity to make fun of me in front of the whole group, he will take it every single time. He takes great pride in it, and I just have to take it.”

But they share a love for Indy, and both know the words to “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Cindric proved it when he crossed the finish line after winning last year’s Xfinity Series race at IMS.

“The singing was poor, but I got every word right,” he said, laughing.

After all, making memories is what makes Indy special.

This weekend’s action features the NTT INDYCAR SERIES along with NASCAR’s Cup and Xfinity Series. The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard for the Cup Series will be held Sunday at 2:30 p.m., with live coverage on NBC. Tickets can be purchased at IMS.com

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