Penske had kept the procedure private until revealing it during a group interview in St. Petersburg, Florida. The NTT IndyCar Season opens there Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Penske, who is 82 years old, received the kidney from his son, Greg.
“If that didn’t mean a playoff spot for me than it wouldn’t have happened,” Cindric told NBC Sports. “I’ll be frank about that and I’ll be honest it. It’s just one of those things that was going to have to happen for us to move forward. We needed the win and he wanted one.
“Need surpasses want.”
The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.
NBC Sports: What was your biggest career achievement before your Truck win?
Cindric: It’s hard to say. I think my win in ARCA last year at Kentucky was big for me because that was my first stock car win at an oval after several tries and being really close. That was a huge weight off my shoulders to be able to prove that I’d be able to do it a level and on that kind of stage. But to get it done in the Truck Series is a huge thing. It’s a national series in NASCAR. It’s a huge honor to be able to do it for the team.
NBC Sports: What was Brad Keselowski’s advice on how to handle the situation with Kaz?
Cindric: It was kind of funny talking back and forth because the first thing he told me was the best policy is honesty. I kind of laughed because I may have been too honest in my post-race interview. I think that’s what may have upset a few people, just because it may have not come across the right way about how the finish came off. I’ve got to be honest. It’s one of the qualities, it may be positive, it may be negative for me, but I’m not going to execute a move like that and not own up to it, I think that’s not in my nature and it’s only doing myself a disservice doing it the other way.
Cindric: The only reason I heard about it before everyone else is because I had to stay the week in Bristol … which was the same week they announced it. Jeremy Thompson, our team’s manager, approached me after the race when we were in tech and told me what Brad was going to do at the shop the next morning and explain it to everybody. Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise for me. Obviously, it was tough not being able to be at the shop for that because I wanted to be with everybody. I wanted to take part in something like that. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to. It definitely means more to be able to bring something back this weekend to kind of get everyone excited for the last eight races.
NBC Sports: What’s your earliest memory related to auto racing?
Cindric: I guess going to the Indy 500 as a kid. When I grew up around racing it was mostly IndyCar racing. My dad (Team Penkse president Tim Cindric) did all of the strategy, managed the IndyCar team till both teams merged in North Carolina. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina that I got much of an introduction to NASCAR and that was at 7 or 8 years old. I was able to watch as many IndyCar races as I could as a kid and travel around in the summer and be able to go to those cool places and meet all the drivers and get their autographs and be a race fan. That’s what I was when I was little. I had all the Hot Wheels, I had all the diecast cars.
NBC Sports: What was your first car?
Cindric: I have never actually owned my own car. They’ve all actually been Ford vehicles. When I really started racing sports cars, I started with Ford and their factory Mustang program and the same gear box that was in a race car was in their street car. So I got my own Mustang to drive around and get used to the box because it was going to help me on the race track. Now obviously we’re the only truck team that runs Ford, so we get a lot of support from them. Ford’s been good enough to me to be able drive around town. But I’ve actually never owned my own car.
NBC Sports: What’s your favorite phone app to use that’s not social media?
Cindric: Shazam. I’m a huge music guy and Shazam, it’s the worst when you have the radio stations that never show what the (song) is and you just pull out your phone and boom, two seconds. You get the name of the song, screen shot it and go download it. I’m a Shazam guy.
NBC Sports: If you were competing in the Cup night race at Bristol, what would you choose as your introduction song?
Cindric: I’d like one of the Star Wars theme songs. Like when the Emperor walks out of the galactic shuttle.
NBC Sports: The Imperial March?
Cindric: Imperial March, there you go.
NBC Sports: If you were Star Wars character, who would you be?
Cindric: I’d be like a mix of Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi. … You can’t beat Samuel L. Jackson. And he has a purple lightsaber. Which is always cool because nobody else did. And Obi-Wan because he’s always the positive character, he does what’s right and does what’s necessary and he’s pretty level-headed. I think it’s hard not to like Obi-Wan.
NBC Sports: If you could race against any driver past or present, what track would you race at and what kind of car would it be in?
Cindric: I would race Rick Mears in, I’m not sure. I would say in Group C, which was basically the big prototype series in the 80s, a Group C car. And we would be at Mid-Ohio.
NBC Sports: Why Rick Mears?
Cindric: He’s someone a lot of people have respect for and someone I’ve grown up idolizing. I think he’s obviously a damn good race car driver. To be able to be on the race track with him at the same time and to be wheel-to-wheel with someone like that would be pretty neat.
CONCORD, N.C. — Austin Cindric will walk across a stage to receive his diploma and then walk into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage shortly afterward this morning.
“Off to the real world,’’ Cindric said.
The 18-year-old driver for Brad Keselowski Racing will graduate from Cannon School, a college preparatory school, and then make the short drive to Charlotte Motor Speedway for tonight’s Truck race. Today also is his mother’s birthday.
Cindric’s father, Tim, is president of Team Penske and serves as a race strategist for IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden. Tim Cindric will attend his son’s graduation before flying back to Indianapolis as the team prepares for next week’s Indianapolis 500.
Austin Cindric ranks 15th in the points after four races this season. He’s coming off his first career top-10 finish, a 10th-place result last weekend at Kansas Speedway.
“I didn’t think it was going to take me 10 (career) truck races to finish in the top 10 with the speed we’ve shown,’’ he said Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I feel like a lot of drivers go through the same things. I think I’m jelling really well with my team. I think it’s only a matter of time before we start being a threat.’’
As for additional education? Cindric says that could come later.
“I think education is extremely important,’’ he said. “Obviously, my parents would as well. It was kind of hard to convince my mom on the fact that I should focus on the racing deal.
“Really in NASCAR, or in many sports, or any other forms of racing, you only get one true shot at it. I feel this is it for me. I feel like a lot of NASCAR teams don’t look at you when you’re kind of past 21 or 22 years old. You’re still a young guy, but you’re not the young guy.
“So being 18 and being in the Truck series, I think is extremely critical. I need put every ounce of effort into making that better … learning as much as I can, being at the shop every day. I think it’s all extremely important. You can always go back to school. I’m fully prepared to go to college, and I think years on, whether the racing thing is going the way I want it to or not, I feel l’ll do some online classes and learn more.
“Racing is my full focus right now. I’ve got to make sure I can say that I’ve done all that I can to make sure that happens.’’