Cindric suffered a nerve-racking Bristol night race when his Team Penske Ford Mustang suffered two blown right-front tires, which dropped him multiple laps off the leaders.
But when the engine of playoff rival Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota blew up in the final stage, that effectively salvaged his hopes of progression to the Round of 12. Having been below the cutline for most of the evening, Cindric picked up the extra spots he needed late on to ensure he stayed in title contention.
Cindric, who is in his rookie season as a full-time driver of the #2 car, believes the experience will make him stronger in coming races, as he strives to lift himself from the bottom of the playoff pile.
“I think it’s more of a motivator to anyone that had any doubts like within the team like, ‘Oh, man, we’re done’,” said Cindric. “You have to have those thoughts in that situation. You’ve got a right-front down and you go four laps down and you get trapped.
“You’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh. We’re done. We can’t do this.’ To anyone who would have had those thoughts in the race, I can have those thoughts in the car as well. I didn’t. I had to drive my heart out for the next 350 laps or whatever it was after we went all those laps down, but I think within the team it almost clears the mindset that we can do it.
“We’ve already proven that you cannot give up in these situations. You don’t know what’s gonna happen, so I think going through that experience certainly helps but, obviously, the team dealt with the situation great and we were able to put ourselves in position to advance to the next round.”
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, M&M’s Toyota Camry, Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing, Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet Camaro, Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Freightliner Ford Mustang, Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford Mustang
Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images
Following the points reset, Cindric is at 3006 and needs to rise four places to make it through to the following Round of 8 during the next three events – starting at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. He is 34 points behind leader Chase Elliott, and seven below the cutline – with teammate Ryan Blaney currently holding the last spot to progress.
“I think it’s certainly possible for us to point our way into the Round of 8,” he said. “But I think anyone who is in the Round of 8, I think you have to win a race.
“I think, especially someone in my points position, I’m gonna have to win and I think I’m gonna have to be competitive enough to be racing for wins to expect to be in the Championship 4.
“That kind of goes without saying, but I think anyone that thinks they’re gonna make the Championship 4 has to be winning races in the Round of 8.”