CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The landscape for Austin Cindric in 2019 is much different than what he faced last season as a rookie in the Xfinity Series.
Quite simply, it’ll be a less chaotic atmosphere for the 20-year-old who will drive Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford full-time in Xfinity.
“Continuity is important,” Cindric told NBC Sports Monday during a media event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Having the one team the entire year is a crucial point for me, having to have that continuity, not only on the track but off the track on the sponsorship side. I feel very lucky to have that kind of opportunity.”
2018 saw Cindric split time between Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing, driving the No. 22 and No. 12 for Penske and sharing Roush’s No. 60 with two other drivers.
“You’d show up at the race track just knowing all your stuff is stored, (that) you’d fit in the car,” Cindric said. “You have somewhat of a practice plan. A lot of time it was busy work throughout the week to make sure you’re prepared enough to get in and go.
“Having 12 different primary sponsors throughout the year, racing with three different teams, five different crew chiefs. It’s still a great position to be in during a full season, but obviously best case scenario is what I got on the slate this year.”
Cindric finished 10th in the standings in a season where he earned seven top fives and 13 top 10s – all with Penske – and experienced seven DNFs.
Now he’s preparing for a full slate in the No. 22 with crew chief Brian Wilson. Wilson was on the No. 22 last year and also worked with Cindric for one ARCA Racing Series race in 2017.
Together, they will be Penske’s first full-time Xfinity effort since Sam Hornish Jr. and Greg Erwin in 2013.
“Brian and I have a really good relationship,” Cindric said. “I think we both understand each other really well. So to be able to apply that in the full-scale is going to be really important. I feel very comfortable working together. Both of us have confidence in what we’re both capable of. Now it’s time to go apply it.”
Where does Cindric see himself needing to focus on more this year?
“Part of it is learning the cars, but also what to focus on in practice to make our lives a lot easier in the race, give ourselves an adjustable package,” Cindric said. “Racing wise it’s definitely a step up. It’s a step closer to the Cup level … the driver caliber is definitely a step higher. To learn from guys like that and apply it to my own driving is pretty important.”
In addition to the limited presence of Cup drivers, Cindric’s sophomore effort in Xfinity will come against a formidable field of series regulars.
“You look at guys like Justin Allgaier, who has been around this for a long time and obviously he had probably a career year last year, and guys like Christopher Bell and Cole Custer coming in for a (second and third year respectively),” Cindric said. “Then you have obviously (defending champion) Tyler Reddick.
“It’s an amazing pointy end of the field. The pointy end is pretty wide. I’d like to hope we’re a part of that.”