On July 15th, 2021, it seemed obvious when the NASCAR world finally learned that Austin Cindric would be going full-time Cup Racing in 2022 driving the number 2 car for Team Penske, replacing 2012 Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski. Cindric dominated to win the 2020 Xfinity Series championship, and he’s on track to do it again in 2021. For most motorsports fans especially seeing Cindric’s current success, it’s been a long time coming. For some like me, I would have never expected it.
In 2017, Austin Cindric became a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series, driving the number 19 truck for Brad Keselowski Racing in what would become BKR’s final season. Cindric’s performance was nothing special to begin that year, however as the season progressed he started sneaking his way into consistent top 10 finishes.
The moment Cindric really became a name NASCAR fans recognize was during the race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park that year. Cindric flexed his muscles and showed his prowess on the road course. In retrospect, that was just a hint at what’s to come. However, Cindric won his first race that day after a controversial incident on the last lap where he made contact with the rear of leader Kaz Grala’s 33 truck, and Grala spun out. Cindric took the checkered flag as many fans on social media raged about how much of a dirty move it was.
The next week, Cindric ran a Global Rallycross race where he got into it with Scott Speed, leaving Speed red with anger. These incidents tainted the 19-year-old Cindric in a lot of people’s eyes, and I still think about that to this very day. After all, John Hunter Nemechek had a controversial incident with Cole Custer the year prior for the win at Mosport. Chase Elliott made contact with Ty Dillon to win the very first race there back in 2013!
I for one, thought that it was a dirty move. I’m a stubborn race fan, and I do not forgive easily. I believed that Cindric was doomed to wash out of the sport. He’d just become another Kyle Krisiloff, or Steven Wallace, just another name doomed to the footnotes of NASCAR history, or a random Racing Reference page in the future. At first, his performance began to prove my beliefs right. At Daytona in February 2018 driving the number 60 for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series, Austin looked overwhelmed. He was out of control and even the broadcast recognized this. On lap 11, Cindric crashed in the tri-oval, collecting numerous others en route to a last place finish.
His 2018 season was proof to me. I believed he sucked. I was expecting him to go away at any moment, his career becoming a decaying husk. However, he did show signs of life! He was much stronger driving for Team Penske in the 12 and 22 cars instead of the cursed Roush 60 car, and he finished 2nd at Mid-Ohio.
Part of me started to realize his strength at road courses, and by the end of 2018 he was collecting top 10s and had finished in the top 5 in the final three races.
By 2019, Cindric began winning at the road courses (including a triumphant first win at Mid-Ohio and last season he finally broke through on ovals, winning the 2020 Xfinity Series championship. By then, I was fully convinced. Austin Cindric will not wash out of NASCAR. Austin Cindric is one of the best talents to come out of the lower series ladder in years.
I write this to fans who might not pay as much attention to the lower series, and to people who may be upset over who Cindric is replacing in the number 2 car. I know it’s big shoes to fill. However, don’t be like me. Do not doubt his abilities and his accomplishments. I have full confidence that Austin Cindric will do great things in the Cup Series, and unlike in previous years, I’m ready to embrace him instead of thinking he’ll suck. Don’t be like me in the past, believe me right now. His past mistakes were just because of his sheer raw talent behind the wheel. You can easily attribute one of Mike Joy’s famous quotes to be about Cindric’s development through the Trucks and Xfinity. “That boy’s got a lot of talent, if only he could harness it on a weekly basis.”
Austin Cindric may very well be a Cup champion in the next 10 years. Everyone reading this should not have egg on their face like I once did. He’s one of the brightest future stars in NASCAR, and I’m so excited to see him finally reach the Cup Series full time.
Featured image from Sean Gardner