Thursday, Aug 18

Ford Performance NASCAR: Austin Cindric Indianapolis Advance

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang -- WOULD YOU HAVE LIKE A SHOT AT SUBBING FOR NEWGARDEN?  “No.  I think my focus is certainly on the Cup race on Sunday.  I know Santino is signficantly more qualified than myself to do that job, so obviously they’ve got a plan.  I really hope Joseph can do the race because I think he’s a strong championship contender.  Even without the issue they had at Iowa you think about the year that they’ve had and the speed that they’ve had, so hopefully Joseph can get in the thing, but I know Santino can do the job otherwise.”

 

THIS IS THE FIRST CROSSOVER WEEKEND WITH INDYCAR THAT WON’T HAVE COVID RESTRICTIONS.  WHAT WILL THIS LOOK LIKE NOW THAT YOU CAN ALL BE TOGETHER?  “I guess we on the Cup side last year dropped the ball on sweeping the weekend.  Obviously, we don’t have an XFINITY car this year, so there’s no chance to do that.  Otherwise, I’m actually excited that I don’t have to race on Saturday in the XFINITY race because I actually get to watch Indy Car race and kind of just do it at my leisure at the conclusion of Cup practice and qualifying.  I’m looking forward to that.  I’m looking forward to getting to watch those guys.  I’ve been a pretty passionate Indy Car fan my entire life and in the 2 hauler if there’s a session on Peacock I’m usually watching it, whether it’s practice or qualifying or even the race.  I’m excited to get to watch in person and also excited to get to go to Penske hospitality and have some really good food because it’s definitely better than what we normally pull out of the fridge.”

 

DID YOU MAKE ANY OVERTURES AT ALL ABOUT SUBBING AND IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO?  “Obviously, I’ll be back and forth for sure.  I know my way around that group, so definitely not a stranger.  I would say I certainly feel at home in some ways going around there in RP1 or the Paddock or whatever you want to call it.  As far as wanting to start in Indy Car, absolutely.  It’s something I’ve watched the drivers I’ve idolized and looked up to my entire life are mostly Indy Car drivers.  I come from that world and I’d love to get a taste of that some day.  I’m not gonna set a timeline or prediction of that, but I can tell you right now is probably not that time.  I think focusing on my Cup career is the highest of importance, but I’ve been a guy that’s always loved driving different things and not just being specialized in a certain field.  I’d certainly love to do that one day and maybe the opportunity will come.”

 

SO YOU DIDN’T EVEN ASK T.C.?  “No.  When it comes for the team that I drive for now if they need someone and they think I’m that guy, they’ll probably come and get me.  Otherwise, I think asking is probably not the right move.”

 

WERE YOU SURPRISED NASCAR DISQUALIFIED ANOTHER TEAM AND WHAT ABOUT THE RAMIFICATIONS OF HOW TEAMS ARE GOING TO APPROACH THEIR CARS AFTER SEEING NASCAR’S RULINGS THIS WEEK?  “I’m not a technically-minded individual on the race team, so take this with a grain of salt, but from my perspective as someone in the industry I think NASCAR wants to be taken seriously on modifications.  That’s as simple as it comes.  It’s obviously at their discretion to figure out what’s worse than the next, but as far as the penalties that have been dished out this week, yeah, it’s been a pretty heavy week on that side of things, but NASCAR wants to be taken seriously for sure.”

 

HOW DO YOU SEE THE INDY ROAD COURSE COMPARED TO OTHERS YOU’VE RACED?  “I think from a NASCAR driver’s perspective, from what I experienced last year and even re-watching the race, the circuit itself isn’t the most challenging.  There are no blind corners really.  I feel like it’s a fairly flat surface and fairly even grip throughout the surface, but I think the restarts are pretty wild.  Being able to calculate those out correctly.  You can lose a lot of spots.  You saw guys who were pretty much dominating the race last year not be able to capitalize on some late-race restarts and that cost them the win.  I think from that perspective, the restarts at the IMS road course in NASCAR are probably the most challenging thing for a driver.”

 

IF WE GET GUYS IN FRONT OF YOU THAT GET A FIRST WIN LIKE BLANEY, TRUEX OR HARVICK ARE YOU THINKING YOU MAY HAVE TO WIN AGAIN TO LOCK YOURSELF IN?  “Yeah, I think you just described the scenario without me having to really go too far in-depth.  Those are obviously the possibilities and, yeah, a second win is absolutely the best way for any driver to ensure themselves a solid lock into the playoffs.  If we can go out and win two races, yeah.  That’s us.  That’s a job well done.  Obviously, regular season points don’t matter.  They still count for the playoff points that you get once you start in the playoffs and I don’t want to start 30 points back to start the thing, so we’re still chasing after wins and playoff points and the best way we can do that is to win races.”

 

ARE YOU PLANNING AN ENCORE OF DOWN HOME IN INDIANA IF YOU GET THAT SECOND CUP WIN?  “I think you can count on it.”

 

WHERE DO YOU THINK THE FORDS ARE GETTING BEAT?  “I guess when I say I’m not technically minded I don’t get paid to be technically minded.  I can be as educated as I can be as long as I feel like I”m dangerous with what I have, but as far as Ford as an OEM in NASCAR right now, I think there’s been tracks where we’ve been really strong and there are tracks where we’ve been really weak.  I think there’s been times where that’s been more aggressive and probably less consistent and trying to figure out is that a team thing?  Is that a car thing?  Is that engines, aero, whatever it may be?  We’re still trying to get data points.  I think it’s important, but Pocono certainly wasn’t a great weekend for us as a company.  Obviously, there were other Fords that were able to run strong.  I feel like Kevin Harvick was someone who should have finished in the top five without getting taken out there at the end.  It’s not doom and gloom and it certainly doesn’t look great when our best car finishes 22nd on the day.  Pocono certainly wasn’t a great weekend by any means and I think Michigan is probably one we have circled on the schedule that we’re probably bound to learn a lot – good or bad.  I think even road course-wise we can make improvements.  I don’t think any of us are happy with exactly where we’ve been as a team.  We want to be able to contend for race wins every weekend and not be satisfied with a solid top 10.  I know that’s a lot for me to say as a rookie, but I’m only here to win races and to run up front.  That’s what I want to do and trying to figure out how I can help steer the ship and be as productive as possible.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE REGULAR SEASON AFTER WINNING THE 500?  “As things have gone after Daytona, Daytona certainly being the best day of my life – first Cup Series win, first race in the 2 car, probably nothing could go any better than how it did.  I would say everything has been fairly par for the course in my opinion.  There have been highs and there’s been lows.  There have been times where I’ve been competitive and I’ve known why, and there’s been times I’ve been uncompetitive and don’t really understand why.  I think it’s been a challenging year in that sense as far as everyone is learning at a very fast pace and trying to be able to evaluate yourself and where you can be better and finding strengths and weaknesses – even as I just talked about.  It’s not easy to identify where those strengths and weaknesses are yet because you have to be able to do that to understand how you can be more consistent.  From that standpoint, I’m happy with the progression I’ve made within the team, with the guys that I work with, with Jeremy, with Doug, all the guys on the 2 car.  I feel like we’re really getting at a decent spot within our team to try and generate some consistency.   We’ve had consistent results with Pocono being the anomaly over the last few months, so it’s been a challenge to go through that, but I think everybody does at this stage of their career.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR INDY THIS YEAR?  “Road courses have been strong for us this year, but not as strong as I would have liked, so hopefully we can turn that into top 10 consistency and top 5 consistency at the IMS road course.  I think you look at the storylines from that race last year, unfortunately, had a lot to do with the racetrack itself.  I feel like this year with the exception of track limits probably similar to what we dealt with at COTA.  Hopefully, it’s an exciting race and pit strategy always comes into play on road courses as well as the stage strategy, so I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to trying to get our 2 car up front.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PLAYOFFS?  “I’ve watched the Cup Series for a long time and it always seems like the first round of the playoffs everyone loses it.  The pressure is high.  The aspirations are high and those first couple races of the playoffs it’s kind of all over the place.  I look back at the season and I feel like most of our races have looked like that, so I don’t know if that’s amplified in the playoffs or something different, but I feel like the competition is as close as it’s been all year.  I certainly expect that continue in the playoffs.”

 

HOW FAR CAN YOU GO?  “I’d like to go all the way to the end.  That’s the goal, but I have to keep my expectations realistic and from where we’ve been all season, I’d like to make it past the first round and anything from there would be a bonus for me if I look at it realistically.”

 

ANY CHANCE FOR YOU TO RUN IMSA AT ALL?  “I raced at the Rolex 24 this past year.  That’s a race that I am pretty passionate about and I’ve worked pretty hard in my career to find competitive rides in and it’s kind of the only race during our season that I can do in IMSA.  I’ve already started laying the groundwork for that event in 2023 to try and get my first watch there.  That would be where I’m at, but focus is pretty hard on the season for the moment.”

 

WHAT IMPROVEMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF THIS YEAR?  “I think what really helps any race team is consistency and if that’s working with different people to get the communication right – and I feel like I’ve mentioned that quite a few times – but I do value quite a lot the things I do during the week to prepare and be prepared and come armed with the best knowledge I can so when I show up at the racetrack all I’m doing is driving in the race car and doing my job and executing.  If anything else pops up, we’re able to react a lot more freely, so from that standpoint I feel like that’s been a big improvement for us as a group, which I think will happen at all times, but it’s not different for me anymore.  Racing on Sundays last year was different.  It’s a different mentality, a different approach, different competitors, different field of cars.  The races play out differently.  They’re longer and all those things are quite normal for me now, where at the beginning of the season I had to kind of remind myself and make some offsets and now I feel like it’s business as usual and that goes a long way.”

 

IS THIS A RACE YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO WIN SINCE IT’S ROGER’S TRACK AND WHERE DOES INDY RANK AS FAR AS A WIN?  “I think for who I drive for it is, next to the Daytona 500, the biggest race I could win.  Between the Daytona 500 and the championship race in Phoenix, Indy is absolutely one of the most important races I can win as a Team Penske driver, but it goes a lot deeper for me than just racing for Roger.  My family’s history and what I’ve been exposed to in racing all really circles back to Indianapolis, so it’s a pretty special track on the schedule.  Do I think I have to win?  No.  Do I want to win?  Absolutely.  Do I want to do everything I can to make that happen?  Absolutely.”

 

YOU HAVE F1 DRIVERS LIKE KIMI COMING UP AT THE GLEN AND KVYAT THIS WEEKEND.  WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO RACE AGAINST BOTH OF THEM?  “Daniil is a late add, but it would certainly be interesting to hear his perspective on what we do.  Racing in Europe is so different than in the states.  Obviously, it’s the same sport and it’s cars on racetracks, but the mentality of how you go about it is quite a bit different.  It would be interesting to get his take, whether if it’s listening to what you guys ask him in the media or any other experience he may have.  But Kimi will be really cool as well.  I’m hoping that we can peel him off into one of our rookie meetings just for the hell of it, but definitely two interesting perspectives to add for our sport.”

 

ARE YOU CONFIDENT EVERYTHING WITH THE TRACK WILL BE BETTER THIS YEAR AND THERE WON’T BE ISSUES LIKE WE SAW A YEAR AGO?  “The issues that we saw last year I absolutely believe will not be there anymore with curbs coming off.  That’s worst-case scenario and even if we were racing on the same track I don’t think we would have those problems with the Next Gen car.  Our cars last year were so low to the ground that the leading edge of the splitter was the sharpest, smallest part of the car and one of the strongest, so that is probably not surprising that temporary curbing eventually gets abused, but there’s no more temporary curbs.  There are full concrete curbs buried under the racetrack, very similar to the curbing that’s in the essess and throughout the rest of the circuit.  Do I have any concerns about durability for the track?  Absolutely not.  I think just from my officiating standpoint there’s probably gonna be more of a look this weekend, like I said before, similar to COTA when it comes to track limits.  NASCAR has kind of started putting out the language for that and I don’t think the track is completely sold as far as this is the best-case scenario, but it’s certainly better than last year and I think there have been ideas floating around for in the future of how do we make it to where it’s a much more self-policing racetrack and something that’s officiated, but, otherwise, yeah, I think we’re in a lot better place than last year with last year’s cars.”

 

DO YOU SEE ANY DIFFERENT AREAS TO PASS THIS YEAR WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR?  “I would say no.  Tire wear has been very interesting at road courses.  As you know, you go somewhere like COTA that is obviously a pretty abrasive surface, but didn’t have much tire fall off, but then you go to Sonoma and it’s normal Sonoma and Road America it’s normal Road America – you’ve got big tire fall off.  I’m interested to see what IMS is gonna be like.  I feel like it could go either way.  I feel like the passing zones will be very similar and like I said before I think restarts at IMS are pretty wild, especially you’ve got opportunity corner number one when you have the opportunity to go four or five-wide into the brake zone.  I would say maybe from a durability standpoint of the car guys will probably be more likely to use fenders than last year.  The steel fenders could get crumpled pretty easy, whereas this car you can bounce off of each other fairly easily and not have any damage as long as you don’t break any toe links, so I think that will probably come into play – having composite bodies more than anything else.”

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