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Rising Star Cindric Drove Unique Path to NASCAR Xfinity Series Title

As the president of Team Penske, Tim Cindric is used to the pressure of a championship. His calculated thinking, along with a calm, decisive demeanor, has helped Team Penske achieve greatness in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since he arrived at the end of the 1999 CART season.

As a race strategist, Cindric has guided many drivers to Indianapolis 500 victories and NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships, most recently with Josef Newgarden in 2017 and 2019.

Cindric experienced something completely different this past weekend at Phoenix Raceway. It was a championship that in many ways, hits much closer to home.

Cindric’s son, 22-year-old Austin Cindric, won the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. Instead of watching from the pit stand and helping make decisions, Tim Cindric keeps a fair amount of distance between himself and Austin’s Xfinity Series team at Team Penske and watched from a suite at the track.

He doesn’t want to be a meddling racing dad. He leaves the decisions up to Cindric’s Xfinity Series crew at Team Penske.

“I was a spectator,” Cindric said. “I didn’t get involved in any of the decisions of what car to take, who was going to do what.

“I could see Austin had a really good car; he just needed to make the most of it. He was patient all day. I was calm during the whole thing. I was expecting there would be a caution in the last 10 laps, so it wasn’t a surprise to me. When he was crossing the line with only three to go, I thought maybe he would escape all of that.

“I was most surprised and impressed that he could hold off Justin Allgaier, who was on new tires, while Austin was on old tires. I was surprised he stayed in front of him and pulled away from him.

“At that point, you could tell there was an opportunity there.”

When Austin was a young boy and told his parents he wanted to become a race driver, father Tim and his mother, Megan, prepared him the hard way. Austin had to earn his way to his dream; it wasn’t going to be given to him.

Although both offered their amount of assistance, it was up to Austin to find teams and arrange sponsorship to create a career in racing.

From Bandoleros to Legends cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cindric started to climb the ladder. In 2013, he joined Andretti Autosport in the USF2000 Series, the entry point of the Road to Indy ladder system. In 2014, Cindric drove for Pabst Racing Services.

In 2015, young Austin competed in the famed Chris Griffis Memorial test session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Pro Mazda car, setting some blazing fast times and impressing the observers in that test. But young Austin quickly realized he was too tall to properly fit into the Pro Mazda ride.

His career path took him to Global Rallycross in 2014, then to Bathurst in Australia in 2015 and ultimately a ride in the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia in 2015.

He drove a McLaren in the Pirelli World Challenge in 2016 and got a full-time ride in NASCAR Trucks in 2017.

Team owner Roger Penske decided to give Cindric a shot when he named him to a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series ride at Team Penske in 2019. Tim Cindric decided to continue to maintain his distance to let his son learn the sport, rather than exert any influence on his career.

“I told him I’m looking forward to the day when he makes it far enough that I’m his father, rather than he’s my son,” Tim Cindric said. “When I’m known as ‘Austin Cindric’s father,’ that is when he has achieved the street credibility he needs.

“We’ve called it ‘SOP’ in the past – ‘Son of Penske president.’ We joke about that.

“I look forward to the day when I’m Austin Cindric’s father. We’re getting closer to that now.”

By winning a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, Austin’s career is standing on its own merit. His father couldn’t be happier for that as the Cindric name is now listed as a NASCAR champion.

“You love to see your kids achieve their goals,” Tim said. “I understand how difficult it is to be a champion at any level and those opportunities don’t’ come around very often. He took advantage of it.

With NASCAR’s pressurized “final four” format that creates a winner-take-all system in the final race of the season, young Austin proved his ability to perform under pressure. His goal from the beginning of the year was to be one of the final four drivers.

“He had to get to Phoenix on points,” Tim Cindric said. “Once he was there, he put it all on the line. He was pretty determined, as you can see.”

With Tim Cindric keeping his distance from Austin’s ride, Megan Cindric was at every race of Austin’s NASCAR season. She provided the support and advice that Austin needed.

“Austin made no secret about it he refers to her as his rock,” Tim Cindric said of his wife. “He has always been really good at that. Sometimes, it’s not cool to have mom around, but Austin is the opposite. He has embraced his mom’s presence at the racetrack. He has been her roommate through all these different travels, and he confides in her on the good days and bad days. They have been through a lot together.

“You lose more than you win in this sport. She has been there for him and has been the one he has leaned on.”

There was another proud mentor who relished the moment last week at Phoenix. It was INDYCAR and IMS owner Penske, who saw Austin give Team Penske its second championship of the 2020 season. Earlier this year, Scott McLaughlin won the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship title.

Newgarden finished second in this year’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship, and Penske’s three NASCAR Cup drivers finished second, third and ninth in that series.

“For Roger and me, it was satisfying to know that Austin was able to prove he is a champion,” Tim Cindric said. “It’s satisfying whenever you give a driver a chance to achieve their goals and they do.

“It’s my son and that makes it a bit more special because Roger has known him since he was 1 year old. Roger taught Austin how to shake hands.

“That is part of Austin’s makeup, he has been around all of these people who are icons of the sport all of his life. He believes everyone is approachable. Rick Mears spotted for him in USF2000. It’s normal for him. It’s one less thing for him to get through.”

Austin will drive the full NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2021 with a limited NASCAR Cup schedule for Team Penske next season. In 2022, Austin will join the legendary Wood Brothers Racing Team as a NASCAR Cup Series rookie.

One day, though, Austin wants to compete in the Indianapolis 500. He spent many years in the Racing 4 Kids day-care center at Indy while he was growing up and was just a toddler when he posed with Helio Castroneves after Castroneves’ victory in the 2001 Indy 500.

“His strategy of driving as many different cars as he can has worked out for him,” Tim said of his son. “There is still a lot left to do, but his first step to win a championship in a NASCAR series is a big accomplishment and a tough thing to achieve.”

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