LAS VEGAS – Austin Cindric is fighting for his playoff life this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, holding down the 12th and final spot in the standings entering Saturday’s regular-season finale.
Sure, Cindric doesn’t have to win the DC Solar 300 in order to advance, but the NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie would certainly like to build some positive momentum for himself before the seven-race run towards the championship begins.
Just a month ago, Cindric was on the pole at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and sitting ninth in the standings, on the cusp of moving even higher in points. However, three straight DNFs at Road America, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway – two due to crashes and one because of an engine issue – have relegated him to the bubble line and in a risky position this weekend.
All it would take is a driver below 12th in the playoff standings sneaking out a surprise victory for Cindric to be bumped from the postseason, but the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric isn’t worried about that possibility.
Instead, the younger Cindric is focused forward and oozing positivity about representing a new sponsor.
“Obviously, we have a lot of big things happening this weekend,” Cindric said. “I wouldn’t say the year has been rough, but the last month and a half has been a pretty big blow from a points perspective … to be fighting for seventh and eighth in points and in a decent spot to now finding myself 12th and barely hanging on, but I think this is a good race to turn that momentum around and have a solid day.
“I don’t think we have to go do anything crazy (to advance), but honestly, it is more exciting for me today because we have MoneyLion on the car … and that is a pretty exciting program that we are putting together,” noted Cindric. “I am just excited to be part of their first real step into NASCAR, and really into sports in general. We will really be able to get their name out there because of that, and hopefully we can give them some success.”
MoneyLion, a fintech company specializing in banking and investment capabilities will make its first of four appearances as the primary sponsor of Cindric’s No. 22 Ford Mustang this weekend in Las Vegas.
“I think my partnership now with MoneyLion is cool because it is a really good fit,” said Cindric. “I would consider myself new to NASCAR racing with this being my second full season driving a stock car in general. To be a part of their first foray into NASCAR and bringing a new sponsor into the sport and my age is really tied in with what they are able to do with the services they provide on the app.
“To have that tie-in, with them being a young company and me being a young driver … trying to move up together, I think is an opportunity for a lot bigger things.”
With temperatures forecast to soar into the triple digits on Saturday, Cindric noted that the final race of the regular season will be even more difficult, not just by virtue of the pressure to make the playoffs but also because of the grind of 300 miles in the desert.
“I think (the heat) will definitely be a factor, but I feel like we have had some hotter races this year. I think Chicago was pretty rough,” Cindric recalled. “The one thing coming to this place, honestly … I remember from when we were here in March, the air is so dry and you are breathing so heavy when you are driving that the back of your throat and edges of your lips get dry. It’s just so much different than what you experience at most other tracks.
“We are all used to a pretty humid heat … and I feel pretty used to that by now, but when you come to somewhere like this and the conditions are different, you feel different things.
Cindric has a simple plan to combat the heat on-track, however.
“Adrenaline is the best medicine, along with a lot of water,” he grinned.