DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Austin Cindric has won four of the last five NASCAR Xfinity Series races and leads the series standings, but he doesn’t have a contract for next season.
Cindric, the son of Team Penske President Tim Cindric, has come up through the Penske organization and is in his third Xfinity Series season with the team.
The hard part? All three of team Penske’s NASCAR Cup Series drivers (Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney) are under contract with the team.
Cindric says he’s focused on trying to win the Xfinity Series championship, but acknowledged his plans aren’t set for next year.
“My immediate goals are to do the best that I can to position ourselves for a championship run here,” Cindric said. “That’s what’s important and I’m happy to be part of that conversation right now. As far as my plans for 2021, nothing set. I don’t have a contract past this year, so I’ll continue to work hard on the weekends and work hard during the week to understand what the best pathway is to take me.”
Cindric acknowledged his has a lot of loyalty to Team Penske and Ford.
“Obviously, I’ve had a lot of loyalty within the Penske organization,” he said. “I wouldn’t be at this point without them and without Ford Performance. Those two relationships have really brought me here as quickly as I’ve kind of come up through the NASCAR ranks, so I would love to be able to stay within that camp, but, at the same time, I’m focused on trying to figure out what the next steps are in my career in NASCAR because it’s where I want to be, it’s where I want to stay, and it’s where I’ve put the most effort in the last couple years, so I’m pretty motivated at that.”
Cindric realizes that things are different this year for drivers looking for work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think everyone knows this, but we’re in a very interesting climate as far as teams and sponsorship and how the world works,” he said. “I think we’re all just very happy and motivated to get to the end of the season. The fact that we’re all still racing right now is very important, but for me right now it makes a bigger challenge. At the beginning of this year there was a new car being introduced next season and now that has been postponed, and obviously economically it’s been very difficult for race teams.
“So, it makes those conversations a lot more difficult and a lot more noncommittal, but at the same standpoint I think I’ve always approached it this way and it’s probably the first time in my NASCAR career that I’ve really had to go outside and understand what’s out there, just because I have been fortunate to be within the Penske camp and within the Ford camp.”
While Cindric says he has a strong loyalty to Penske and Ford, he feels he still needs to explore the market.
“I have a great deal of loyalty to Ford and Penske and if I can do anything to stay within those camps, and I feel like that’s mutual, I think we’re gonna do it, but how difficult it is to work that, especially this day and age is the current challenge and, for me,” he explained. “I’m not doing myself any service if I don’t go out and understand what’s out there. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and that’s the case. You’ve got to pick up the phone and not expect it to ring, but having success while you’re doing that is great.
“It makes those conversations easier to have and easier to convince people that you’re the guy, but, overall, it’s what I’ve been doing during the week and I’m very focused on doing my job during the weekend first and foremost.”
But for now, Cindric is focused on starting from the pole at the Daytona Int’l Speedway Road Course on Saturday. Cindric is one of a few NASCAR drivers who have competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Yeah, I hope I don’t just drive straight through NASCAR four onto the front straightaway,” Cindric joked about the new chicane added for the NASCAR events. “Hopefully I remember there’s a chicane there, but, overall, I do think it eliminates a better passing zone in turn one.”
Cindric compared the revised Daytona layout to the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I think it’s gonna be hard to get away from people, but it adds a new aspect to it,” he said. “I feel like momentum is a gonna be more important than the ROVAL at Charlotte. I feel like there’s a lot of geometry similarities to the final complex at Charlotte, and you can kind of just drive it in as hard as you could, hit curbs as hard as you could, whereas it seems like this you’ve still got a pretty decent straightaway afterward.”