Despite Daytona 500 crash, Austin Cindric still pleased with weekend


As the final lap of the Daytona 500 unfolded shortly after midnight on Monday, reigning Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric was trying to make up ground after a miscommunication on his last pit stop.

Despite that, a top 10 finish in his Cup debut was still in sight. But in his mind, trouble was coming.

“I was pushing those guys pretty hard to try to catch up,” he recalled Tuesday in a media teleconference. “At the same time, If I am being 100 percent honest, once I knew I wasn’t going to be top-five anymore, I pretty much considered myself crashed.

“It just hadn’t happened yet.”

Sure enough, it did.

Cindric was collected in the last-lap crash that ended the race under caution. He was credited with a 15th-place finish.

As Michael McDowell pushed Brad Keselowski entering Turn 3, Keselowski and leader Joey Logano made contact. McDowell avoided the ensuing wreck and was declared the winner when NASCAR deemed he was leading when the yellow came out.

Cindric said he was running in tandem with Cole Custer, then moved from behind him entering Turn 3 only to find the chaos.

With nowhere to go, he slammed into Keselowski and flames exploded along the SAFER Barrier.

He later re-tweeted a picture of the brief but harrowing inferno, his No. 33 Team Penske Ford engulfed, with the message: “Update: Fire is hot.”

“I wasn’t trying to be a smart aleck (with the tweet), but it is amazing,” he said. “Holy cow. The amount of heat that comes off that. We are lucky he only had two laps of fuel left.”

Fortunately, he and everyone else involved in the wreck came out uninjured. And despite his race ending in a blaze of, well, not glory, Cindric felt good about the weekend as a whole.

He should. In his Duel qualifying race on Thursday, Cindric fell a lap down after a mid-race speeding penalty but was still able to make the Daytona 500.

On Saturday, he won the Xfinity season opener in overtime.

Then, on Sunday, he ran among the front-runners for much of the 500, and even got to lead his first laps at NASCAR’s top level.

Being that this was his first weekend driving in both Xfinity and Cup, the 22-year-old admitted that “managing (his) priorities was very challenging.” But it was worth it.

“A lot of late nights, and I definitely sacrificed some sleep for prep work and making sure I was prepared for the days ahead – I am glad that I did that,” he said.

Cindric will see more Cup starts this season as he prepares for a full-time move in 2022 with the Penske-aligned Wood Brothers. Where those starts will be remain to be determined.

For now, it’s back to full focus on the Xfinity side, where the 3.61-mile Daytona road course is next up on Saturday afternoon. Cindric won the inaugural race on that layout last August.

The pomp of the season-opening weekend is over. Now, it’s about building toward the season-ending weekend in November at Phoenix Raceway, where Cindric hopes he’ll race for another championship.

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying that my mindset is ‘title defense,'” he said. “It is making it to the (Championship 4). That may sound correct or incorrect, but with the way the format is, you have to make it to Phoenix and then have your best day. That was my mindset last year and is my mindset this year.

“As far as going to the Daytona road course – one of my extracurricular goals for the year was to win on a superspeedway. To get that knocked out early was really satisfying. It is a different discipline. To be able to control the race, how we did and the speed in our car, I was really proud of that effort. We haven’t had that kind of speed at speedways in the past.

“It shows the effort my guys have put in during the off-season. We keep stepping up both individually and as a group. Nothing is guaranteed though, so it is back to work.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.