Sunday, Mar 26

Ford Performance NASCAR: Austin Cindric Ready for the Round of 12

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – HOW STRESSFUL IS THIS ROUND GOING TO BE?  “Stressful for somebody.  I think it’s a great opportunity round for a team like us to be able to get some points.  I think Texas went well for us in the All-Star Race.  I’m not saying that’s gonna mean good things for the second one of the year, but we’ve got good notes and a good opportunity to improve from what was a fairly dominant race for our team between the three of us, so I think Talladega is obviously without saying a wild card and the Roval, even if you’re not good, you can probably strategize some ways to get points, so I think this round is exciting for someone in my position and try to maximize it.”


DOES THE ADVERSITY YOU FACED AT BRISTOL MAKE YOU GUYS STRONGER?  DOES THAT PROVIDE A BOND THAT SHOWS YOU CAN FIGHT THROUGH ISSUES LIKE SATURDAY?  “I think it’s more of a motivator to anyone that had any doubts like within the team like, ‘Oh, man.  We’re done.’  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 that 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, yeah, obviously, the team dealt with the situation great and we were able to put ourselves in position to advance to the next round.”


HOW CLEARLY CAN YOU SEE YOUR PATH TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4 RIGHT NOW?  “I think it’s certainly possible for us to point our way into the Round of 8 from that standpoint, but I think anyone who is in the Round of 8 I think you have to win a race.  I think you have have to win a race to think that you’re gonna be in the Championship 4, so I think you’ve got three unique racetracks in the Round of 8, but obviously you’ve got to get there first, but I have thought about it.  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.”


YOU WERE AT HOMESTEAD TESTING THIS WEEK AND HAD A LOT OF SPEED.  IS THAT ENCOURAGING AND HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET TRACK TIME IN GENERAL FOR A TEST LIKE THAT?  “I’ve done a lot of Homestead tests driving Xfinity cars and I’ve been P1 plenty of times and I can’t say that it’s certainly translated into race weekends or at least for the whole stint, but obviously to have some speed, be able to work on stuff – that’s the big thing.  Homestead is such a unique racetrack.  I wish we would have gotten that chance for probably a few other playoff tracks as far as open tests, but everyone has had the same opportunity and we’ll have the same opportunity to go back and look at the data, but I think it’s also valuable to do it on a tire that’s consistent between a lot of intermediates now, so I think from that standpoint it’s great.  The weather is obviously going to be different.  It was mid-90s when we were down there testing, so it’s obviously not gonna be that hot when we come back in October, but, either way, it’s great to be able to try out some stuff between all of our cars.  I think it’s certainly productive.”


IF I SAID YOU WOULD HAVE A DAYTONA 500 WIN AND BE IN THE ROUND OF 12 BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED, YOU WOULD PROBABLY TAKE IT.  IS THE REST OF THIS YEAR ICING ON THE CAKE OR WHEN YOU HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY CAN YOU STILL SAY YOU CAN’T BE SATISFIED?  “I think both.  Not to give you the obvious answer, but, yeah, I think if someone would have offered me a Daytona 500 win and further into the playoffs at the beginning of the season, yeah, I probably would have taken that deal in my rookie year, but I also believe and I’ve said it at playoff media day that we’re in an era that you’re probably gonna have to win races to make it to the Championship 4, at least in the playoffs and I think in the season where past champions haven’t made it into the playoffs, you have to look at yourself and say this is not an opportunity that’s guaranteed every year.  You can’t just be competitive and make it into the playoffs.  You have to be winners at some point in the season, so not saying I can’t go out next year and go win a race or two, but I’m just saying it’s hard to do that in the Cup Series and I want to take advantage of the chance that I have right now of being in the playoff.  We’ve all seen how crazy it’s gotten this year.  I think this year is probably gonna be as crazy as it gets with as much news stuff is going on with tires and cars and teams and drivers and everything that is all very fresh and new, but it’s a huge opportunity.  Talking about thinking I can point my way into the Round of 8, which I think is very realistic, that’s a pretty big deal.  I mean, this is what everybody works so hard for and I’m excited for the opportunity for the next couple of weeks.  I think I can approach it with a pretty loose mindset to your point about icing on the cake because I think I can.  I mean, I’m on offense from here on out.  I’ve been on offense since the start of the playoffs, really, with our points position, so I think we can be loose and just take advantage and take any chance that we can get.”


YOU LOST YOUR CREW CHIEF FOR FOUR WEEKS EARLIER IN THE YEAR.  WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT HAVING HIM OUT THAT YOU WOULD TELL BLANEY AND HIS TEAM ON HOW TO NAVIGATE THAT?  “I’m certainly not sure what the team has decided there, but I think every team is gonna go through that a bit differently.  Everybody deals with adversity in different ways.  Obviously, it’s not ideal, especially at this point in the year.  For us, in the middle of the summer, it wasn’t as stressful at the time.  Now, I will say that the people that stepped up did a great job.  We had some tough races and tough situations that really put us in a bind, whether it was DVP stuff or things that are just that simple or even pit crew stuff or just even race strategy and communication throughout practice.  At places like Bristol, where practice happens really fast and you have to make changes really fast, those are the situations you’re gonna be put and the pressure is gonna be on for people that are in positions they’re not used to being in, but I think we’ve got a lot of depth at Team Penske, so I’m personally not really worried for him just because I think no matter what the result is and whenever the suspension is taken, I think that they’re gonna be fine.  We’ve got a lot of depth and make sure that they cross their t’s and dot their i’s.  I think that’s gonna be important, but it is a tough situation for communication and I think that’s where I would put my focus towards, overcommunicating stuff before weekends and going into weekends.”


GIVEN THE WAY THE SEASON HAS GONE IS THERE A PATH TO JUST LIMITING MISTAKES AND BEING SUPER CONSISTENT AND MAKING IT TO PHOENIX FOR A CHANCE AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?  “I think you certainly could.  I think you might have to have more points than me to have a realistic mindset towards it, but I certainly think pointing into the Round of 8 is possible, but I think the mentality of you have to win and from that standpoint I think you have to be good enough to really be good enough to really think you earn it and winning races is really the only clear measure of that, so that’s kind of where my head has been at since the start of the playoffs.  I think the outlast portion of the playoffs is just about over because after this round we’re getting to some pretty straight-up racetracks.  We’ll have already tested at Homestead.  We’ll have already tested at Martinsville and raced at Martinsville and will have already raced at Vegas, so you’re really not gonna get the Bristol type race or Darlington – two super high demanding races that also have some uncertainty going about them – so I think it’s a pretty straight-up round, which makes it really performance-oriented, which is why the opinion that you’re gonna have to win, especially in my position.  That’s where my focus is and I think it’s where it will remain.”


WHAT DID YOU LEARN WITH THIS CAR AT THE ALL-STAR RACE THAT IS GOING TO PRESENT ITSELF THIS WEEKEND?  “Texas has always been a track position race.  I think the biggest difference heading into it, I mean, we’re like mid to high 90s this weekend and we were 70s at night in the All-Star Race and that’s a pretty big difference in pace and fall off.  Not that Texas has a lot of fall off, but enough to where you’re probably gonna want tires.  It’s also a different tire than what we did in the All-Star Race, so I think there’s a lot of differences that are certainly gonna have to change your mindset of how you approach the race and how you approach strategy.  It’s also a 500-mile race.  I didn’t really even realize that until this week, so that’s another long race where you have to execute really well.  I think execution has been at a premium this season, but a lot of difference heading into this race than the All-Star Race, which is why I’m not like, ‘Man, we dominated the All-Star Race as a team and won a stage and won a million bucks as an organization with Ryan’  Thinking that we can just go out there and set the world on fire I don’t think is realistic.  I think there are a lot of decisions that are very important about condition changes.”


YOU CELEBRATED THE 500 WIN AT STEAK N’ SHAKE AND GRAGSON WENT TO A WAFFLE HOUSE.  IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’VE ALWAYS DONE AFTER A RACE AND ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL MEMORIES OF THOSE STOPS?  “The funny thing is Noah went to Waffle House on a very good day.  I’ve come to go to Waffle House usually on a bad day.  I usually don’t let myself go home until I’ve gotten over myself on a bad day, whether if that’s going to Waffle House and sitting in my lonesome sulking for a while or parking in my neighborhood and just going for a walk until I’m over myself, but as far as Steak N’ Shake goes, that’s a tradition the Wood Brothers have done for a few of their wins, when they won the 500, so it’s kind of a tip of the hat to them, but even in Indy when they’ve won the Indy 500 and I’ve been there, whether if that’s going downtown to Steak N’ Shake in Indy or something as simple as Kathy Penske and my mom going on a McDonald’s run after an Indy 500 win as we sit down and watch the Coke 600 in the infield of the speedway, so I think it doesn’t matter really who you are, you’re still hungry and food brings everybody together.  Sometimes it’s fast food and sometimes it’s gourmet food and sometimes fast food can be gourmet depending on the day.”


WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO HAVE THAT STEAK N’ SHAKE EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR MOM AND DAD IN ADDITION TO YOUR TEAM?  “Yeah, it was really cool.  The only person missing was really my brother, who doesn’t live stateside anymore, but as far as having the whole band together as far as Indy 500s and stuff like that, but, really special to have both my mom and my dad there with my whole team.  We had pit crew guys.  We had everybody and it’s one of those moments in life that you kind of have to appreciate while it’s happening, or at least remind yourself that it is happening because it doesn’t happen every day.  You don’t do incredible things every day, but when you do it’s certainly possible to do it all again, but I’m a big fan of living in the moment and I think that was an example of living in the moment.  Even the people who worked at Steak N’ Shake were all about.  They were taking selfies with the whole team.  We brought the trophy in there and it was a fun night.  That’s what started the night for a lot of the team, but definitely cool to shut the place down with the biggest trophy.”


YOU MENTIONED THE WAFFLE HOUSE ON A BAD NIGHT.  DO YOU CONTINUE TO DO THAT?  “I’d say that started, I’ve been to Waffle House a lot of times after Bristol.  I’ve had a lot of rough races, whether if that means I’ve sucked or something has sucked about the night.  I remember after my first Truck race at Bristol I went to Waffle House, just because I was hungry and I was worn out from my first race at Bristol.  Yeah, a lot of races after Bristol, whether it’s the one in Statesville on the way home or in Mooresville, sometimes I’d have crew guys come with me and sometimes I didn’t want to be around anybody.  Comfort food gets you a long way.  Get you the All-Star breakfast.  Sometimes I get blueberries in the waffles, it depends on the day, I guess.  I’ve got to have ice in the orange juice as well, but otherwise it’s a good comforting place and it’s always open 24 hours, so it’s very reliable.”

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