Wednesday, May 25

Ford Performance NASCAR: Austin Cindric Talladega Media Availability Transcript

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang – WHAT IS IT ABOUT TEAM PENSKE AND FORD THAT MAKES YOU SUCH A GOOD COMBINATION ON TRACKS LIKE DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA?  “Obviously, it takes a lot of execution and sometimes positioning and sometimes luck at the speedway races to be there at the end and have a shot at winning the race.  One of those pieces is having fast cars and I think the engine shop puts a lot of effort into these types of races as well as our team, whether that’s from a strategy standpoint or a driving standpoint.  I feel like our two senior drivers, Ryan and Joey, are two of the best at this type of racing.  You look at Talladega, I think six of the 12 wins Penske has at Talladega are from Joey and Ryan, so those guys are really capable of getting that done and learning from that and understanding how I can best do my part, I think you collaborate that with a lot of really quality cars in the Ford camp, I think that’s why you see a lot of Fords at the front.  I think we work well together and it’s obviously proven to be successful.”

 

WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF FOR A GRADE THESE FIRST FEW RACES?  “I think some things have been better than I thought and other things have been more of a challenge.  Like the funny thing walking out of the track last week is I don’t think anyone in this group or this room or probably under the roof of this building would have thought that my Bristol Dirt Race I would have run legitimately better than I did at Phoenix.  I think those things show that there’s a lot of changes and a lot of newness and a lot of moving parts and a lot of challenges as a rookie in the Cup Series.  I kind of knew that going in, but it’s one of those deals where you have to learn and adapt and prepare yourself as best as possible.  I’m not sure I’d give myself a grade, but I do think there’s been a lot of progress, whether that’s on the racetrack or off the racetrack with the team trying to build something.  That’s been a fun process to be a part of.  Every day is not easy, but it’s certainly rewarding on the good days.”

 

WITH ALL THE WINNERS THIS YEAR, ARE YOU LOOKING AT POINTS AT ALL AMONG WINNERS AND ANY PRESSURE THAT YOU MAY NEED A SECOND WIN?  “Yeah, a second win certainly cancels out a lot of that conversation.  The thing I do look at from our standpoint is that we’re above the top 16 in points.  We’ve been solidly above the top 16 in points, so if you look at it as everybody in the playoff picture has a win, we still would have more points than those that are not in the top 16.  From that standpoint, I think we just have to keep operating as usual.  I completely agree that a second win pretty much cancels out anything from keeping us out of the playoffs and obviously that’s what you try and do every week, but it’s certainly a conversation worth looking at.  We can’t just go all-out and not care about points because points are certainly important, but it’s also important for lining you up in the playoff picture beforehand, so I’m not sure it changes much other than some days could maybe be more pressure-filled, but a lot of the best ways to cancel that out is to win another race.”

 

HOW MUCH PREPARATION AND TALK WITH THE TEAM HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE PLAYOFF TRACKS?  “I think we work on a week-to-week basis.  You look at Martinsville and Phoenix as two incredibly important races to the schedule, whether that’s for me, for the organization, for my teammates.  I’ve got two teammates that are championship capable drivers and I think those races are really important to them and I think we as a company have to recognize that if we want a chance to win a championship we have to be good at at least those two racetracks specifically, so I think that’s important for us as a company.  From that standpoint, yes, and from obviously the standpoint from all tracks you’ll return to – you think about the challenges every team and driver has been faced with that’s going to these tracks with very limited practice, with very limited knowledge on the car.  I can just look at having the three short tracks back-to-back-to back understanding the tire a little bit better, understanding even though things don’t really transfer from a Martinsville to a Richmond you can still take things away from those racetracks and take trends away, so I think everybody is looking for the smallest amount of information they can to try and progress their stuff forward, so I think we’re all looking forward to going back to tracks again for the second time.”

 

WHAT KIND OF VIDEO ARE YOU PREPPING WITH THIS WEEK?  “Pretty much wrapped up all my film prep for the week, whether it’s with my spotter or my team.  We’re looking at Daytona.  There are so many unknowns going into Daytona, you kind of have to remind yourself not only the car and the things that you learn throughout Speedweeks, but also the fact that Talladega is a different racetrack, still being able to keep an open mind, but also Daytona you’re gonna race different because everyone kind of looks at it as an exhibition.  There are a lot of times in the race where guys will be making moves that aren’t necessarily for points or trying to win stages or lag back – a lot of the final stages of the race everyone was saving fuel, so you kind of have to take that with a grain of salt.  So, I would say Talladega and now that the season has started a lot of people probably look at it like, ‘Austin, you already have one win, you’d really want two.’  Well, of course, but there’s a lot of guys in the field that really want one win because they see that as their only way to make it in the playoffs.  We’ve only got one guy with multiple wins, so from that standpoint I would see this being maybe a desperate race already with business picking up in the win column.  I definitely look at that as far as a mentality standpoint from my competitors, even in some stages for myself.  Obviously, everybody’s got their own motivations to win the race, but I look at it as Talladega certainly has different offsets than Daytona and handling usually doesn’t come into play as much, but I’m looking forward to building off what I learned at Daytona.  We obviously had a lot of strengths and try to build on that.”

 

WHAT DID YOU DO RIGHT AT DAYTONA AND WERE THERE TIMES YOU WONDERED WHY YOU MADE CERTAIN MOVES?  “Yeah, I think it’s really hard to have a perfect plate race.  I think there are always things that you can look at.  The hardest part for me when I’m watching film, especially when it’s races that I’m in is it’s hard to not just watch yourself.  You watch the race and you’re like, ‘Oh, I remember this.  I remember that.  This guy was an idiot.’  You try and remember the race that you were in, but the bigger picture of doing the film study is to watch other moves other people make and different trends.  Kyle Busch was leading a lane, for example, and understanding and looking at the data and looking at the film.  OK, what’s he doing to try and keep the lead?  What are the other guys playing with? How does that evolve throughout the race as people learn things?  Those are the things that you pause the video and look at and understand.  It’s a lot of information and trying to figure out what the things that are most important to look at and think about, but also at the same time, like I said before, keeping and open mind is important because I think with this car, I feel like there was a pretty good science to it with the Xfinity car, if I’m being honest, where as I feel like with this car it’s much more dependent on what’s happening in the pack versus what’s happening with the air.”

 

YOU SAID SUNDAY COULD BE A DESPERATE RACE, SO HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?  “It’s a great question and I’m not sure you really can.  You’re kind of just more of a passenger.  You might just tighten up your belts more before every restart, but, other than that, that’s about it.  You can understand and you can maybe expect guys to make mistakes.  Sometimes when the pressure is high people make more mistakes, but at the same time expecting big blocks, expecting people to take runs when they have them.  Those types of things are probably what you can do at least to prepare ahead of time as a driver, to maybe anticipate other peoples’ moves, but, otherwise, I’m not promising more wrecks, but it’s usually the late blocks, I mean, similar to what you saw at the end of the second Duel.  These cars are very, very challenging to block runs and they’re very challenging to take pushes, but I think there’s gonna be a lot of pushing.  I think it’s a lot of the normal stuff you see, especially you’re kind of Daytona end of the year race, but, like I said before, there’s a lot of people noticing that there’s a lot of wins and you have to win to make it into the playoffs with the way things are trending at the moment.”

 

HOW DID YOU DEVELOP INTO SUCH A GOOD SPEEDWAY RACERS SO QUICKLY?  “I’m not exactly sure there’s one moment or one defining moment.  I would say when I first started racing stock cars and the mentality is you go and you kind of watch things on TV.  That’s all you kind of really know about it.  There’s no other discipline in racing that you can really relate to to speedway racing.  You can be a dirt racer and go to Bristol and think of certain things or I can go to Road America and apply some certain things or even Martinsville, but there’s nothing on the planet that’s even remotely close to what we do on speedways – bump drafting and all those certain things.  I feel like nothing really prepares you for that other than going out there and doing it, so I think the more laps I got – kind of an obvious statement – but the more laps I got at it, the more comfortable I got.  The biggest challenge for me is like, OK, I understand how to work in a pack and what to do to get myself forward and the smarter decisions to make and obviously understanding your competition, but it’s really hard to lead.  It’s really hard to change your mindset like a light switch because the moment you’re in the lead you’re having to manage gaps, you’re having to do certain things you weren’t having to do in the pack.  I think your relationship with your spotter is incredibly important.  The last couple of years I’ve gotten to work with Coleman Pressley.  He and I have developed a great relationship, really great communication and I think that mentality for me has carried over working with Doug Campbell. I think he’s been doing an exceptional job, not just on the speedways, but obviously winning the 500 together in our first race was pretty cool, but I would say that was due in large credit to the amount of time we spent together.  He came to a lot of my pre-race meetings in Xfiinty when we knew we were gonna work together, and I spent a lot of Sundays last year watching races from the spotter stand, so I think that relationship is pretty important and being able to knock out the communication.”

 

HOW MUCH OF DAYTONA CAN YOU BRING INTO TALLADEGA WITH THE NEW CAR SETUP-WISE?  “Setup-wise, I’ll be interested to see how much handling does or doesn’t matter.  I feel like you had times in the race where the bottom lane would fade at Daytona even though it was probably the most dominant lane for restarts and early run, whereas Talladega you don’t really see the off of turn four slides that guys usually have at Daytona.  Granted, it’s gonna be high 80s or low 90s while we’re in Talladega.  Obviously, awesome weather to watch a race, but handling-wise interesting to see how this tire reacts to the changing conditions.  Otherwise, I look at Talladega as more of a speed racetrack than a handling racetrack.  Some people would argue different, but that’s kind of how it’s always been for me.  Otherwise, car-wise, I’m interested to see where we qualify and what gains we were able to make just from having the cars longer.  I think everyone is kind of in that same boat, so it’ll be interesting to see who has done more homework after the first event of the year.”

 

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN YOURSELF GROW SINCE THE START OF THE YEAR, NOT JUST AS A DRIVER BUT LEARNING THIS NEW CAR?  “I think you certainly recognize, the funny thing is you have guys who say this is the easiest year to be a rookie and in some ways I think that’s based off of the fact that everyone is having to learn quite a lot and there’s a lot of newness with the cars.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have habits I’m having to unlearn as well.  My whole basis of how to drive a stock car has been in an Xfinity car.  That’s pretty much it.  I had one year in the trucks, but it’s pretty much four years of Xfinity racing and that’s what I’ve defined racing on an oval, period.  I think some of those things puts me in the same boat as everybody else, and then you’ve got to stack on top of that what it means to be a rookie in the Cup Series and racing against the best guys in the business.  Some days are better than others.  Some days are worse than others.  I think it’s just a process and in some ways it’s nice with the new car because there are a lot of very humanizing days for a lot of different drivers in the field.  Some days you’ll be back racing for 20th with Martin Truex Jr.  This guy is a Cup champion.  This guy is expecting to be in the hunt for this championship.  He came really really close to winning the championship last year and they have bad days because everyone is learning.  Everyone is having highs and lows, and that’s why I feel like the points are still really close.  That’s why we’re having new winners every weekend.  It’s challenging, for sure.  It’s just about minimizing those bad days and learning from them and applying them to make the next day better.”

 

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