Sunday, Sep 24

Austin Cindric Charlotte Media Availability

Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang, stopped by the infield media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway to answer questions about this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 and other issues.


AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang – WHAT’S IT LIKE TO FILL ON TV VERSUS BEING A DRIVER? “Honestly, I had a lot more fun rain-filling as a TV person than I usually do as a driver. As a driver, you cool off and you almost don’t want to do it anymore. You’re kind of over it. You’ve hyped yourself up and now I don’t get to do my job, so that’s what all those drivers are experiencing right now, especially for the entirety of today, but I tried to make the most of it.”


DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE ANY DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE OF THE 600 MILES? “I don’t think so, to be honest. I think the biggest difference is having the extra stage. It’s an extra opportunity to earn points and the fact that all stages are the same length, 100 laps for all four stages, I think really, for me, that’s how I mentally separate the races as they go anyway. Even on my dash and with the feedback my team gives me it’s like, ‘OK, how many laps am I doing before we have a caution.’ Or, ‘How many laps am I doing before I get off these tires.’ So, for me, it’s actually a pretty simple race, other than the fact that it’s longer than the ones we do throughout the rest of the year. From that standpoint, it’s still the same intensity that we would see on a normal 400-mile race on a mile-and-a-half.”


WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR CHICAGO? “I think the biggest challenge, just like any street course, is going to be track conditions and the ability to not necessarily pass, but it’s narrow quarters. A racetrack like Circuit of the Americas, the last road course we ran on, I could screw up and go 100-feet into the runoff and keep going. That was a race that went primarily all green until it didn’t, whereas Chicago or any street courses there’s zero room for error. We’ve seen how strong and robust these cars are, but at the same time that’s why I love street course racing, but whether it’s track blockages or guys making mistakes having cautions throughout the race, all types of those things, I think will be different and come into play differently than what they would on most of our road courses because a mistake is damage, it’s not lost time.”


WHAT WAS KEVIN’S REACTION TO THE TOILET PAPER IN HIS MOTORCOACH AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO THE INDY-CLT DOUBLE ONE YEAR? “As far as Kevin goes, I was very anti-tepeeing Kevin’s bus when they asked about it over the second intercom because I have to race against him 28 more times before he retires. It’s all funny for everybody else, but Tyler and I were like, ‘This probably is not a good idea,’ but I guess that ask came from above on doing that, so they were all in on the joke. Kevin has a really nice bus. I could spend some days in there. That was nice. I didn’t really want to leave, honestly, because we sat on pit road and got rained on the entire time, but from that standpoint it was fun. I don’t think it was too rough. I was more worried about the guy that was actually gonna have to clean it up. I don’t know Kevin’s coach driver’s name, but I asked him three times before we started like, ‘You’re good with this, right, because I know you’re gonna be the one cleaning it up.’ I don’t think Kevin’s gonna be the one cleaning it up. Let’s be honest, he pays the guy, so from that standpoint I wanted to make sure he was cool with it and he knew what we were doing. The fact it was raining outside, I thought it was gonna be a really bad idea if we did the outside of it because I don’t know if any of you all have teepeed anything, but water makes some stickage and creates a much more complicated clean-up process. As far as your Indy 500 question, there’s a lot when it comes to the Indy 500 of why that race is special to me, special to my family. I just came from up there yesterday. It’s certainly a race that I would want to do. I don’t really see a racing career complete for me without having an opportunity to do that race. Obviously, I’m 24 years old and hopefully the completion of my racing career doesn’t come any time soon, but I’m also very focused on what I’m doing in the Cup Series garage. I certainly want to get as good as I can and contend for championships and wins in this garage area. That’s where my focus is right now, but somewhere later down the road it’s something I would want to do, for sure.”


WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT GATEWAY? “It was an interesting race last year with different strategy calls, whether it’s track position, two tires, no tires, four tires. We were one of the cars that ran up front most of the day and took four tires at the end and probably weren’t able to really utilize it, but it’s a fun racetrack. I think the racetrack itself has done an incredible job promoting the NASCAR events and the IndyCar events. Every time you see it, they’ve got a full crowd and the fan response was awesome last year. I look forward to coming back and seeing that and being a part of that. Something that probably makes that place really unique is how much shifting we’re doing throughout the lap, just because you have two completely different corners with the really long sweeping turn three and four, and a pretty tight turn one and two, but the restarts were crazy because track position was so important, whether that was for the lead of the race. Coming at the end I thought Joey and Kyle’s battle was a really classic finish to a NASCAR race, but even throughout the pack it’s pretty wild.”


WHERE IS THIS 2 TEAM AT NOW? “The last two months have been extremely frustrating. I think anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong in our control or out of our control. Certainly, 20th in points is not where I want to be. My best finish in the last two months was on dirt. I don’t think anybody would have guessed that, so, for me, I don’t put the panic button down by any means. We’re certainly within a points range of contending for the playoffs and a win changes everything. I drive for a race team. I’m a driver that’s capable of winning races in the Cup Series, so, from that standpoint, I feel like there’s been a lot of off-track things that have really progressed nicely over the last two months for our team that you necessarily can’t see. Getting our pit crew back for this weekend, the longest race of the year, is very important. Obviously, we had a slip-up at Kansas and had a wheel come off. I feel really good about the guys over-the-wall on my car and a lot of things that haven’t quite gone right recently, but I trust the process and certainly driving for an incredible team. I’ve got a really strong group of guys, so that’s where we’re fortunate to have a long season. I talk about two months, we race every week and it’s easy to have all that compound and really weigh on you, but if look at the other side and the other forms of racing, that’s the majority of a season – that amount of races – so we’re fortunate we get to go to the racetrack every week and learn and continue to improve because it is an extremely long season. We are at the halfway point, I believe, but it still feels like we’ve got a long way to go and certainly a long enough time to let things average out.”


DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO BE WINNING RACES EVERY YEAR REGARDLESS OF HOW LONG YOU’VE RACED? “I can promise you wholeheartedly that I plan on showing up at the racetrack every week with the capability of winning races. I drive the 2 car for Roger Penske. I feel like that’s somewhat of the expectation. Obviously, I haven’t been in the series for a very long time. I’m racing against guys that are the best at what they do and they’ve been the best at what they do for a long time, but that’s what makes this enjoyable for me is to be out and be able to compete with the best and on certain days to be the best.”


IS THE 600 ONE OF THE MORE IMPORTANT REGULAR SEASON RACES NOW? “Yeah, it’s certainly 10 more points that you wouldn't be able to get on any other week, so being able to emphasize a good race is important. Just from a numbers side, yeah, I would say it could be one of the most important regular season races as far as an opportunity to get points or separate yourself or being able to maximize having a good day, a good car, good execution. That pays off 25 percent more than any other race we have.”


WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWING HABITS FOR THE INDY 500 TOMORROW? “I was very lucky last week that our garage opening schedule was so long between our on-track schedule last week that I have not missed a single lap that they have done this month in May up in Indy. I got to go there yesterday for Carb Day. I had the first time in my life to be at the Coke 600 last year and I basically just got to the track as early as possible so I could watch the entire race and not be disturbed. The team knows me well enough to know to not schedule any appearances until the race is over, so they were good about that last year. Hopefully, the same this year. I love that race and it’s such a classic event and the fact that you get to have those three races – Monaco, Indy and Charlotte all on the same day, hopefully, weather permitting – but it’s been really cool to see how this side of the racing world views it. When I’ve been at Indy all my years as a kid, the Coke 600 is the after party. You’ve finished watching the 500 and you’re sunburned and you sit down and watch the Coke 600 and watch the sunset, but it’s kind of interesting being on the other side for the second time in my life.”


DO YOU WATCH MONACO AND FOR THE INDY 500 ARE YOU IN YOUR COACH OR WITH YOUR ENGINEERS WATCHING? “I think our NASCAR team, at least our core group, has benefitted from my presence with their IndyCar knowledge has definitely grown. Even last week, just having it on in the Penske bus or whatever else and talking to guys about the qualifying format and how practice has gone and this and that. Certainly, those guys are interesting, whether it’s Joey or Ryan or Harrison or some of the other crew chiefs and mechanics. They’ve started to come to me as far as asking questions, but it’s fun because we do have all of that under the same roof at Team Penske, but sometimes there isn’t enough crossover to really fully understand or appreciate what is so different, but so similar about what we get to do. It’s certainly something I’m passionate about and looking forward to watching the races Sunday.”


ARE YOU UP FOR MONACO? “If I’m up, I’m up. When I was a kid, we got in Roger’s police escort from downtown, which if we’re supposed to leave at 6:30 in the morning, we have to be there at 5:30 because if RP walks out at 6:15, you’re getting left. So, we were very early and all crammed in my dad’s car and so I would get to the track with plenty enough time, so Monaco is gonna be in all the garages and everything, so usually we would watch Monaco from inside the garage area because we’d be there way before the traffic would start. Those are really my only traditions watching Monaco. I’m not a diehard Formula 1 fan by any means, but I certainly enjoy watching it, so if it’s on, it’s on. If it’s not, I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it.”


WHAT IS THE GAME PLAN FOR YOU TOMORROW WITH RAIN A POSSIBILITY AGAIN? “The difficult part, and we’ve had it a number of times this year, is that we’re going on track for the first time. If practice gets rained out today, which it’s kind of looking likely, we’ll be on track for the first time and for a 600-mile race you’re kind of stuck with it, so that kind of looms over you. I try to be somewhat of a logical person in the sense that worrying about it isn’t gonna change anything. You’ve had all week to think about it. You’ve had all week to prepare, so why are you trying to study for a test that’s happening in five minutes or an hour. I’ve done all my prep work. My team has done all of our prep work and tried to show up with the best Duracell/Menards Ford Mustang as we possibly can and whenever the race happens it happens. I think actually having practice might add more stress for me because when you have practice you have the opportunity to go backwards as much as you do to go forwards, if not more of an opportunity to go backwards than you do to go forward, so you have more stress about ‘did I screw this up or not?’ It’s kind of easy going into it blind because you don’t know anything. You haven’t screwed anything up because you haven’t even started, so it is what it is and I just hope we can get it in tomorrow or at least in a time that everybody can enjoy it.”


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