Austin Cindric, Daniel Hemric ready to fight, claw in Monday Xfinity race


Normally, Xfinity Series drivers like Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric would spend Memorial Day with family, maybe enjoying a barbecue and just relaxing.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a new normal. Instead of the Xfinity Series heading into the holiday weekend with a race on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the series will instead race tonight.

“It’s weird,” Cindric said, noting that typically he’ll race on Saturday, fly to Indianapolis for a family reunion as well as watch the Indy 500 on Sunday (his father, Tim, is President of Team Penske and also strategist for two-time defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden).

But that’s all out the window. The Indy 500 has been postponed to August 23 and the Xfinity Race was pushed back to tonight.

Speaking on a NASCAR teleconference, Cindric then added, “I just feel lucky to be back racing no matter what the weekend is.”

He and the rest of his fellow drivers were in a holding pattern until the coronavirus pandemic hiatus was lifted last week. The Xfinity Series was due to resume last Tuesday at Darlington Raceway. But rain pushed the race back to last Thursday. It was a good day for Cindric, as he finished fourth behind winner Chase Briscoe, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier.

“I have a lot of friends, past teammates, co-drivers that are sitting on the couch right now waiting for their race series to start back up,” Cindric said, “or a lot of questions looming over whether they’re going to get to race this year, participate in something like that and other series. So I feel very lucky to be part of NASCAR and the fact that we’re resuming our season.”

Cindric hopes tonight to extend the momentum he achieved at Darlington, where he finished fourth behind race winner Chase Briscoe, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier.

Cindric comes into tonight’s race third in the Xfinity driver standings, 26 points behind series leader Briscoe.

Daniel Hemric stands on the grid during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Toyota 200 at Darlington Raceway last Thursday. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Hemric, meanwhile, is also looking to extend the momentum he gained from his sixth-place finish at Darlington. One of three drivers who will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, Hemric has made starts in four of the first five races, with mixed results.

Hemric, who is scheduled to drive 21 of the Xfinity Series’ 33 scheduled races, comes into tonight’s race 15th in the standings, 129 points behind Briscoe.

After missing the season-opening race at Daytona, Hemric finished 35th at Las Vegas, qualified fourth and finished seventh at Auto Club Speedway, was 30th at Phoenix and bounced back for his best finish this season at Darlington.

“Darlington was a weekend we needed as the 8 team, but also as the race community, to get back to the race track to have an opportunity,” Hemric said. “To do something that was somewhat normal was great for all of us, and for us in general, right.

“We needed to try to get on base, that’s what we kept saying because we haven’t had anything to get our momentum going throughout the first part of the year here. So it was a good day and just execute and have a solid day and end up inside the top-10.

“It was just one of those deals where you fight and claw and it just worked out where we ran sixth.”

Now it’s back to fighting and clawing tonight.

“You know there’s nothing better than a home race,” Hemric said. “So hopefully we’ve turned the right knobs and have our Camaro tuned up where we need it come race time.”

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