SPARTA, Ky. - Austin Cindric ran Ford’s NASCAR XFINITY win streak to three as he won Thursday night’s Shady Rays 200 at Kentucky Speedway, marking his first oval victory.
It wasn’t easy for Cindric to reach Victory Lane as he had to overcome three restarts over the final 32 laps and beat fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe, who was gunning for his third consecutive victory and sixth of the season.
After passing Justin Haley on a restart with 27 laps to go, Cindric looked like he was going to cruise to victory, but when Colby Howard wrecked with 15 laps remaining, it changed the entire complexion of the race. That’s because Briscoe was restarting alongside Cindric on the front row and when they took off on the restart with nine laps remaining, it was Briscoe on the inside lane who pulled in front. However, he wasn’t able to clear Cindric, who was able to use the momentum of the outside lane to take the lead off turn two.
Again, Cindric looked like a clear winner, but Harrison Burton spun with four laps to go to set up the same scenario. The overtime restart looked just like the previous one as Cindric opted for the outside lane, but this time when Briscoe dove into turn one he got loose and was forced to back off the throttle, allowing Cindric to take the lead and post his first victory of the season. Briscoe ended up fourth.
The win was Ford’s fourth in the last five series races and sixth overall in 2020.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS:
1st -- Austin Cindric
4th -- Chase Briscoe
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Snap-On Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW
YOU WON ON AN OVAL!
“I don’t care what shape the track is -- if it’s dirt, oval, I don’t care I’m just so happy this Snap-On Ford Mustang is in Victory Lane. We’ve come so close all year. These guys have given me so many awesome race-winning cars. With Snap-On celebrating their 100th anniversary it’s awesome to have them on the car. These cars don’t get built without Snap-On tools, so I’m pumped. This is awesome. I’d love to be able to come back into another performance like that tomorrow night, but all the credit to my guys for getting me here.”
TALK ABOUT THE PASS. LAST WEEK YOU HAD HEARTBREAK AND THIS WEEK YOU’RE BATTLING THE 98 AGAIN ON A RESTART.
“I love the guy, but he’s won enough. Those restarts were a lot tougher than I was thinking they would be. Obviously, he never got out of the gas until he got loose like he should have. I’m just so happy. Thank you to Roger. Thank you to every one of the team for believing in me. I believe this is a championship team and this is the start of many wins for this season and I’m so happy that it came here.”
YOU HAD SO MANY RESTARTS AT THE END. HOW DID YOU DO IT?
“I don’t care how hard it was. I don’t care how fast we were, I’m just so happy that I’ve got these guys and the 22 car in Victory Lane. They deserve so much. They’ve been so resilient at giving me great race cars week in and week out, especially since the break. It’s been hard for every team, but I’m so happy to get Snap-On in Victory Lane. Those restarts were a little harder than I thought they’d be. Man, with the slide job on the 11 and holding off the 98 there in one and two, that wasn’t easy.”
IT SEEMED YOU WERE IN CONTROL ALL NIGHT AND KNEW YOU HAD A FAST RACE CAR.
“In some ways we had to muscle our way through there, but the product of the draw here at this track is frustrating. To start 12th and tomorrow we’re starting 15th, hell yeah. I love it. The two worst starting spots we could have all weekend and it’s for a lot of good reasons. I’m pumped. I’m so thankful for every opportunity I have in this series and to be running with this team and racing for wins.”
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Mustang
WHAT ABOUT THAT FINAL RESTART. YOU WERE IN 2ND PLACE AND WHAT HAPPENED IN TURN ONE?
“I just got loose. The restart before that I almost cleared Austin and then he got back around me, and then there at the end that last restart I went down there and the same thing. I thought I was gonna be able to clear him and I just got too loose and about wrecked the thing and then I don’t know if I just made the right-rear mad or what, I was literally wrecking both ends after that. I felt like this was our worst car of the year as far as balance and speed goes and we were still able to at least be in the hunt. We’ll go on tomorrow. I felt like Kentucky and Texas are our two worst mile-and-a-halves, and those are the next two, so we’ll try to build on it and just try to learn a little bit and get better.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SEE AUSTIN WIN AND TO BATTLE WITH HIM AGAIN TONIGHT? “Yeah, It’s cool to see Austin get a win. I know it’s been hard on him to not win on the oval. I was telling everybody this week I feel like this is by far his best oval, so it’s cool to see him get in Victory Lane. I know they’ve been one of the cars to beat all year long and just haven’t been able to close the deal out. I thought we were gonna have a chance on both restarts and that last one I just got so loose, but, overall, I feel like this is our worst night of the year just from a speed and balance standpoint and we were still able to at least be in the hunt for the win and end up fourth. Overall, I’m ready to move on to Texas. This isn’t my favorite racetrack in the world, so we’ll try to build on it tomorrow and hopefully get this Ford Performance Racing School Ford a little bit better.”
TEAM PENSKE WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Snap-On Ford Mustang
CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THAT FINAL RESTART?
“I didn’t want it. I didn’t want the final restart. I didn’t want the one before that or the one before that, but usually in NASCAR racing you get them, so you can’t complain. You’ve got to rise to the occasion and I got a good push from Allgaier there at the end. I don’t really know what happened to him or how they got wrecked, but it’s too bad for him because he did his job for me, so I appreciate that. I’m just so relieved to get this Snap-On Ford Mustang to Victory Lane. All these guys, they do so much for me as well as Ford Performance and all of our partners, so I’m so excited about that and excited to have another shot again to try tomorrow.”
DO YOU FEEL THIS GIVES YOU ADDITIONAL CONFIDENCE ON THE OVALS?
“I don’t think it gives me additional confidence. I mean, when Bob Pockrass tweets out in the morning that you’re the pick to win the race, that’s all the confidence that you need. I’ve known that we’ve been able to do it for a while and we’ve obviously had some extremely fast race cars over the last two months and that’s something to be extremely proud of. That goes into the prep work all the way back at the shop to obviously my prep work in being fast right off the truck and we’ve been able to do both of those things and to be able to close it out now, it’s such a relief. It doesn’t even feel like success, it feels like relief.”
IS IT BECAUSE YOU FEEL YOU SHOULD HAVE WON ALREADY?
“I feel like we should have won about four or five by now, but I feel like there are a couple other guys in this series that could say the same thing, so you just have to keep trying and believe in yourself and trust the process. That’s what I’ve done and that’s what we’ve done as a team and tonight it paid off.”
HOW WILL THIS HELP YOU TOMORROW NIGHT?
“We’re starting in the two worst starting positions this weekend, 12th today and 15th tomorrow. I feel like tomorrow is gonna be a lot harder to recover from that, but that was the goal after we drew 12th. They were like, ‘All right, let’s double-down.’ So as a team I feel like we have to have the same approach tonight -- being patient and obviously working our way forward every chance we get. That’s what we did tonight and we took every opportunity that we had and made the most of it. It was a really well-executed race. I never lost a spot on pit road and I never lost a spot on the racetrack, really, so I’m just really proud of that effort and I think there’s been a lot of opportunities for us to win this year and I honestly feel like it’s not just the road courses, it’s not just the mile-and-a-halves, it’s every type of racetrack we’ve got a shot to win. I feel like the guys we’re racing realize that and I’ve had a lot of fun racing these guys as well this year. Obviously, racing Chase, he and I are good friends, but Ross and Noah and Harrison and Justin and all these guys they race really hard every week and it’s fun to be able to expect that and to trust that at this stage in the game.”
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT FORD THAT YOU AND CHASE AS THE ONLY TWO FORD DRIVERS IN THE FIELD HAVE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL THIS YEAR?
“It’s obviously great. It shows a lot of things on the side of Ford Performance. Chase and I have kind of come through the ladder system together through Ford and we’ve fed off of each other. We’ve been able to be teammates and teach each other things and play off of each other’s strengths. That’s been a really fun relationship to have. I think he’s had enough wins for now. He can at least wait until the playoffs and let me get a few, but, overall, the guys at Ford Performance have obviously done an incredible job between the guys at the simulator or the engine shop with Roush Yates. That leadership has really played a huge role in my development as well as Chase’s, and on top of that they did a lot of R&D over the last year and we’ve got a new body kit on this car and you can see the development and the progress that we’ve made just by adding that and having such dominant speed with both cars has been a lot of fun to see right off the get-go.”
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT KENTUCKY LAST YEAR THAT THINGS STARTED TO CLICK FOR YOU AND THE TEAM?
“I feel like it was the first place on paper that you could really see a lot of progress. I feel like after Pocono last year, really after Michigan we made a lot of strides as a team in understanding. ‘I have to trust you. You have to trust me and figure out what we can do based off of what I’m feeling in the cars and what we’re missing.’ I feel like we’ve done an incredible job as a team between myself, Brian and my engineer, Matt, of coming up with the right things in the cars for what I’m working with and the more I understand these cars, the more I can give them even more valid feedback -- whether that’s from the technical side of things or the tracks -- and I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been in my career as far as translating that type of information and that’s my job. That’s what makes NASCAR racing so unique and so difficult to transition into is that you don’t have the data, you can’t just be reactive on what other guys are doing. You have to be proactive. You have to be the first one to move up in the PJ1 to understand what it does because when everybody else moves up, you’re trying to run a lane higher and those types of things are the mentality you have to have. It’s taken me some time to learn that and trust myself and understand what it takes, but I’ve never had anymore confidence than I do now of what I need to do in those types of situations. So I’m excited about that and I’m excited about this team.”
ARE YOU SOMEWHAT DISAPPOINTED YOU COULDN’T CELEBRATE HARDER WITH ANOTHER RACE TOMORROW? HOW BAD WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO A BURNOUT TOMORROW NIGHT?
“My first XFINITY win I kind of screwed up the burnout, so that’s never really been my thing. Hugs have usually been my thing, but COVID has kind of screwed that up. It’s not a big deal. I’m just happy to win. I don’t need a big, smokey burnout. I’m just happy for my team and my partners and I guess tomorrow night is the night for the burnout.”
HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU OF A SWEEP NOW?
“I’d say I’m very confident.”
BRIAN WILSON, Crew Chief, No. 22 Snap-On Ford Mustang
“Obviously, the ending was exciting with all the cautions we had there, the restarts, trying to figure out what we wanted to do as far as the push with the guys behind us. Up until that point, it was a pretty big track position race. We felt like we had a fast car, but once we got to the front we wanted to hold onto that, so the restarts were obviously key right there. It was pretty nerve racking, but it was awesome. It was great to see. It’s been a lot of hard work from this whole team to get Austin to this point. I feel like he’s been at this point to win a race for a while, so I know we’re all relieved and proud of the progress that’s been made.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR AUSTIN TO FINALLY GET A WIN ON AN OVAL?
“I think it’s big for the whole team. Obviously, that’s a majority of the tracks that we’re gonna run in the playoffs, so we’ve always been focused on that, but, really it’s been about building the whole team. The communication, like you said, the chemistry, everything seemed to start clicking here within the past year, so it’s not just about the ovals it’s more about the team coming together and understanding what Austin needs to run up front.”
THIS RACE A YEAR AGO SEEMED TO BE TURNING POINT AND WHERE AUSTIN’S FEEDBACK STARTED TO IMPROVE. DO YOU AGREE?
“I’m not sure how far you want me to rewind in our history, but you go back to before I started working with Austin full-time we had a lot of notes from the Cup guys and when we first started working together I leaned on those notes pretty heavily and before this race, really, it was probably around Charlotte and Pocono timeframe last year we kind of hit rock bottom, where his feedback wasn’t necessarily matching up with what I expected to see out of the tire builds, just the setups weren’t jiving with what he wanted and so we threw away the notebook and we started working on something different. A lot of the races the 12 car ran during that time of the year they helped us with that, so it really was a Team Penske effort to try to understand what we needed to do, and what Austin was gonna be comfortable with and this was the first race where it really started to click. Ever since then we’ve been refining this and building a new notebook and understanding what Austin needs in different situations, so it really was a turning point for us last year.”
THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE WAS JUST ANNOUNCED. HAVE YOU STARTED LOOKING AT THAT TRACK AND DONE ANY SIMULATION?
“We’ve just started talking about it. Obviously, the announcement just came out. Within the walls of Team Penske we’ve got some people that have raced on that track before and, obviously, Austin has got a lot of laps around that layout as well. We’re just starting to work on it, but that’s the nice thing at Team Penske, you’ve usually got somebody you can lean on to say, ‘Hey, if you take a setup from Road America or MId-Ohio, how does that compare to a place like Daytona?’ So we’ll lean on those guys and really lean on the notebook that they’ve got.”