Sunday, Oct 01

Ford Performance - Austin Cindric Daytona 2 Transcript

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Menards/Cardell Ford Mustang – WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT WHEN YOU STUDY FOR THIS RACE. IT PROBABLY ISN’T WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR. “Yes, the completion of this race last year was the only part that I skipped over because, to your point, it looked like a six-car ARCA race at the end of the thing because there were only about six cars running. So, from that standpoint, not a ton to learn from the finish last year. Obviously, we had a really great shot at winning and sweeping both Daytona events last year, but we’ve had some strong speedway cars and feel like speedway racing has evolved a lot since last year, but there’s been a lot to dive into this week.”


DO YOU HAVE A GOOD FEELING OF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN POSITION ON THAT FINAL LAP OR DO YOU LEARN THROUGHOUT THE RACE? “I think, as always, it depends on who is around you and certainly handling. Are we in a green-white-checker? Has it been a full fuel stint? Do you have age on your tires? I think all of those things are contributing factors because handling does come into play at Daytona, it’s just how much is it going to be different than the 500? In the 500, you saw guys struggle more for handling this year than last year for whatever reason, so I think all of those factors play into it, but, yes, those are definitely things that I’ve studied throughout this week so far.”


HOW MUCH HELP DO YOU EXPECT FROM FORDS OTHER THAN TEAM PENSKE? “I think it’s a great question. At a bare minimum I think we can all help each other get to the end of the race as far as pit strategy and staying close to the front of the field and making high percentage moves. I think all of those things benefit all of us because, to your point, there’s a lot of Fords that still need to win and get in and only one of us can do that, so I think throughout the race we can certainly benefit each other, but at the end I think the end of the race is really no different than how it would be in the past. I think anyone who is driving a Ford if they can’t win would like to see either their teammate or a Ford win, but, at the same time, I think everyone is gonna be doing what’s best for themselves at the end as you would expect.”


HAVE THERE BEEN ANY TOUGH CONVERSATIONS ABOUT HOW TO GET THINGS TURNED AROUND? “Yes and no. I mean, there are certainly points in the year where I think I work with enough talented people that if someone has done something wrong or if I’ve done something wrong, at least all the individuals at least on my team, we’re pretty quick to stick our hands up and say, ‘Hey, that was on me today.’ These are the things we could have done to be better and you close out on it, so I don’t think any of the tough conversations have been tough to have. Maybe that’s the best way to put it because I think the expectations for myself and my team and my team of our team is high and justifiably so, so from that standpoint we try and get the best and sometimes when you’re not able to get much of anything out of a race weekend, like I said before, you’ve got to go back to the basics. I think in the last month we’ve done a very good job at execution, something that has come at a premium I would say for the first half of the season for us. Unfortunately, we’re getting to that point right before the cutoff of the regular season.”


HAS THIS YEAR FELT ANY DIFFERENT – MAYBE MORE LIKE A ROOKIE SEASON IN TERMS OF HOW MUCH LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT THAT HAS GONE ON WITH THIS TEAM VERSUS LAST YEAR? “Yeah, it’s hard to understand or attribute it to what or why. I can’t just sit here and tell you one thing, but, yes, this year feels different because I’ve run a lot worse than last year, so it feels a lot different. There’s a lot more days of looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to change or refine my process to absolutely maximize every race event, so that’s been a constant battle. I’m a pretty self-motivated person and internally-motivated person and when things are going right, I’m usually the first person I look at and that’s what my team expects out of me. At the same time, how do things that I do affect the people around me and all of those things, whether if it’s leadership qualities or just trying to figure out mechanically how to make the car go fast – whether if it’s with pieces and parts on the car or how I’m driving the car, so there’s been a lot of those difficult Sunday nights because it’s definitely been different not running well.”


YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN PART OF THE PLAYOFFS IN TRUCK, XFINITY AND CUP. HOW HAS THIS EXPERIENCE BEEN OF TRYING TO GET IN? “It’ll be different territory next week if I’m not in the playoffs. There are times in my career where I’ve had to fight to get into the playoffs. That’s the point of the playoff format, so I have been there before and even trying to make it round to round in the playoffs is a similar situation. My playoff experience probably, I would say mentally would help someone in this situation because it is the same, similar win and you’re in. You have to execute on one day even in the Championship 4 situation, so I think just being able to have experience racing under pressure definitely doesn’t hurt and you mix that with speedway racing and it’s gonna be a hell of a weekend.”


DOES HAVING THE WIN LAST YEAR AT DAYTONA INCREASE YOUR CONFIDENCE GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND? “Yes and no. I mean, I’ve had success on superspeedways and that definitely comes down to decision making and being able to maximize an opportunity. Track position is important with everything that we do, so you have to get there and earn the spot at the end of the race to be able to make something happen or execute an opportunity. The meat and potatoes of the race is still very important, but from a confidence standpoint I get confidence in my preparation and I would say my preparation tells me that things have changed a lot since the first superspeedway race we did that I won, so I am very open-minded to how things have evolved with this car throughout races. The one thing that’s probably stayed the same is the tire and the aero package and that’s about it. From a racing standpoint, I think your competitors are a lot closer than what they were to start, so trying to differentiate yourself and make high percentage moves is key to being able to find success at the end of the day.”


DO YOU THINK IT’S BEST TO BE TOWARD THE FRONT OF THE FIELD IN THESE RACES? “I’ve never really understood the whole ride around in the back thing unless you’re trying to save fuel or you’re so good on points that there’s absolutely nothing to gain. But the way I see it there are so many guys that have so much to gain by getting points this weekend, even guys that are locked into the playoffs that can guarantee themselves six or eight more playoff points versus their competitors. I think everyone has something to race for this weekend, so I see very few, but I’ve never really quite understood the mentality, so, no, you will not see me riding at the back.”


HOW HAS IT BEEN THIS YEAR WITH SO MANY PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS RACE THIS YEAR AND IS THERE A SPECIFIC DRIVER YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO ENJOY RACING AGAINST? “I haven’t had much personal interface, I assume you’re referencing a lot more of the international talent that’s come to the series and raced on road courses. I would say probably the coolest experience I’ve had is to race against Jimmie Johnson, which I would say a good percentage of the field has raced Jimmie Johnson, but I have never raced Jimmie Johnson, so I thought it was cool being on track with him. What his legacy means to the sport I think there’s only two other guys that even statistically match up to him, so to be able to race against him, I think, was the coolest part of the year. It’s been interesting to watch guys like Shane or Jenson or some of these guys that have had a couple shots at it what their progression has been like, but also how they even go about the day to day process of our race weekends because our race weekends are super unique to any other form of motorsport with short of practice sessions we get, but at the same time we’re a lot of media obligations and sponsor obligations and things of that nature that I would say you would have a fraction of in most other racing series, so it’s been interesting to be a fly on the wall and watch some of that just on how different it is, but I would say Jimmie Johnson is at the top of the list for the coolest guy I’ve gotten to race this year.”


WHAT WOULD BE THE BIGGEST GOAL FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE FINAL 10 RACES? “If I don’t make the playoffs, be the best teammate and win a race. Those are my two most important goals in order.”


WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HAVING NO STAGE BREAKS ON ROAD COURSES? “I think it’s different track to track because each track has different ebbs and flows. You look at Indy and COTA and there’s a lot of run off and not too many walls and not too many super challenging corners or high risk corners. That is maybe a better way to put it. You’re gonna have a much lower percentage of having a caution. Even at Watkins Glen, we didn’t have too many cautions, but if you rewatch some of these races the stage breaks are really some of the only cautions that happened in the race. I think it really depends on what you’re consuming. I would say from a series standpoint there’s something to be learned for the stage breaks or the race lengths to influence, whether if that’s different strategy calls throughout the race. I don’t necessarily have any suggestions just sitting here. I can’t say I’ve been overly critical one way or the other, but I think you can play with the race length and probably add more strategy to it than probably say Watkins Glen was a really straight-up race for the most part plus or minus two laps, pitting on one side of the window or the other. We were one of the fortunate ones to catch that caution when we were on pit road, but as far as that goes, the crazy restarts and stuff like that, I think it all depends on what you want to watch. I think it’s great that we’ll have a sample size by the end of the year to look at as a sport and see what was better. The thing that I do like about the stage cautions being eliminated on road courses is that the best cars get rewarded for running the best because, otherwise, if you wanted to win the race, you were never gonna get max points, period. You pretty much had to throw away stage points to win a road course race last year, or really since the start of stage racing, so I think that brings in the spirit of rewarding running well and that’s what I’ve always thought stage points were all about.”


HOW MUCH MORE PHYSICALLY DEMANDING IS IT WITH NO PLANNED STAGE BREAKS? “It depends on the racetrack. The Charlotte Roval, I think that will be pretty challenging. Indianapolis was fairly challenging because it was pretty warm and when I say challenging, it’s gonna be different for every driver. If it’s just long runs having to manage tires and the car is getting quite a bit looser because these cars, even though we don’t see a lot of falloff, they do change a lot and get a lot harder to drive throughout the stint, but it kind of equals out with the fuel burnoff with the pace, so you can add that into the equation if your car is not driving well. But just as many corners as there were at Indianapolis, I don’t think I ever took my left hand off the steering wheel. I got done with the race and my arm was locked in one position. I’m sure all of us can sit at a table and try not to move your arm for three-and-a-half hours. It doesn’t even matter if you’re putting in a physical effort, it’s gonna be very tiresome to do that. It’s just something funny I noticed after Indy, but, yeah, it’s physical but I kind of like that challenge, to be honest. It should be physically challenging to do what we do, not that it isn’t if you had cautions and so on, but that’s close to an endurance race at that point.”


HOW HAVE YOU MAINTAINED PERSPECTIVE AND A POSITIVE ATTITUDE DURING THE CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED THIS SEASON? “That’s a good question. I usually don’t let myself go home until I have figured out all of my problems. If I’ve landed and I still have a problem with what happened throughout the day, I’ll either go to Waffle House or park my car on the side of the road and go for a walk, but when I go to bed on Sunday night I have at least come to peace with everything that’s happened in the day and try and figure out a way to move through it or make progress throughout the week. I guess that’s my very direct answer of how I deal with that. But, yeah, there’s been certain points in time this year that have definitely not been easy for not just me, but all of us, and then there are some days like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so easy to run well. How has this not happened all year?’ It’s obviously easier to run well than it is to run terrible, so trying to diagnose some of that. We’ve had races recently that have gone well and that makes you realize you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but I’ve driven enough race cars and I’ve worked with enough race teams that obviously the Cup Series level is the highest level. You’re gonna be easily exposed when you’re racing at the highest level, whether that’s racing in NASCAR, racing in IndyCar, racing in IMSA, racing in Formula 1. If you’re racing against the absolute best, each weakness that stacks up you’re going to be exposed a lot quicker when you race against people that have their act together. From that standpoint, when it’s bad, it looks really bad and it feels really bad, so it’s good motivation to be a perfectionist.”


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