AVONDALE, Ariz. - Austin Cindric was one set of corners away from a repeat NASCAR Xfinity Series championship Saturday night, falling in a photo-finish to Daniel Hemric in the season-finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Approaching the finish line, the cars collided side-to-side, with Hemric crossing the stripe .030 seconds ahead of Cindric—roughly five feet—denying the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford a second straight championship.
Cindric led a race-high 113 laps and was the Stage 1 winner.
The runner-up finish was good enough to secure the Owner’s Championship for Team Penske, the eighth for Mustang since becoming Ford’s vehicle in the series in 2011.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS
2nd -- Austin Cindric
4th -- Riley Herbst
17th -- Ryan Sieg
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 CarShop Ford Mustang -- POST RACE INTERVIEW:
WAS THAT GOOD RACING?
“If everyone in the stands enjoyed it, it’s good racing. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to race on such a big stage. The opportunity to race for Roger Penske and represent Ford Performance, our companies and all of our sponsors that have helped us this season. It would have been awesome to finish this out. I felt like we had a dominant race car. I felt like we did everything right. Come up a little bit short. Sometimes it’s like that way. Unfortunately, at the end of both seasonal championships this year I’m getting obviously moved out of the way and doored, but that’s hard racing. That’s why everyone enjoys watching this series. It’s because there’s a lot on the line. I’m thankful for the opportunity and pissed to be second for like the third week in a row.”
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND ON THE OVERTIME RESTART?
“I know my left-rear bumper cover is as vulnerable as ever. Obviously, Daniel was in position to be the advocate of that and he certainly used it and he’s the champion because of it.”
AND YOU WOULD HONOR HIS CHAMPIONSHIP?
“Yeah. He’s over there. I’m over here. He’s the champion.”
BUT IT WAS A GOOD YEAR FOR YOU GUYS.
“Yeah, absolutely. That’s why it’s so frustrating to come up so short. One lap. One lap is all you need, maybe one restart. You never know, but to make it this far and have the season we’ve had. The stats obviously show the consistency and the way our team has performed throughout the season. It doesn’t matter what type of racetrack. I work with some of the best people in this sport and I’m a better driver because of it.”
YOU WON THE OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP TO PRESENT TO THE TEAM?
“Yeah, that’s really poetic. Obviously, this 22 car has won so many owner’s championships over the years with so many great drivers. My first race in this 22 car was in 2017 and they won the owner’s championship then. I guess I get to close that one out I guess as ironic as that might be.”
TAKE US THROUGH THE LAST LAP:
“Certainly not how I would have wanted it to go. Just trying to get clear off the top. I have put myself in too many bad spots giving people the bottom. I am not sure if I should have drove in shallower or softer or whatever it may be. I feel like I was pretty vulnerable with how close he still was to me and still packing left rear air. I got a little free into three and that is all she wrote. Obviously disappointed to have the car we had and the success we had this year and not be able to close it out. We put ourselves in position and sometimes that is all you can do.”
HOW DO YOU SUM UP WHAT THIS SERIES HAS MEANT TO YOU IN YOUR CAREER AS YOU MOVE TO THE CUP SERIES NEXT YEAR?
“I think it has defined me as a driver in the sport. I mean that in a lot of ways. I’ve shown up not knowing much about what I have been doing. From there, I have driven so many different types of cars and bring all those experiences and probably the most unique situation as possible as far as a competitor and what other drivers might expect from me. I have had to mature a lot and I have had to go from not being respected to where I feel like I am respected and it has been a fun journey. I am very appreciative of it.”
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang -- RETIRED EARLY DUE TO ACCIDENT ON LAP 156
WHAT HAPPENED TO CAUSE THE CONTACT FROM THE 18?
“We were racing hard. We had a really, really good long-run Mustang but our short-run speed, we were just trying to hang on. We were three-wide one time off of Turn 4 and the 18 got into me a little and gave it a little bit of a tire rub. I think he was getting frustrated because I was just trying to hold those guys up as long as I could because I knew if I made it 15 laps I would be okay. He got into me into 3. I don't know if he just sent me or what. I feel like at the same time, my left-rear tire cut. I don't know if that was from the damage earlier and then when he got into me the second time it finally cut it or what. At that point, I was along for the ride. It is super unfortunate. We had for sure a top-10 car and if we could have had some long runs maybe even a top-five car. We went all year long and never crashed a car, so to end it on the last one like that is unfortunate. You always want a good run at the end of the season to build momentum into the off-season. You just want to have good runs every week. I hate it that it ended this way, but I am looking forward to the future and everything that entails.”
YOU ARE THE 2021 NASCAR CUP SERIES ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, HOW DOES THAT FEEL?
“I wish there was more competition for it and we were going up against more guys but it is really cool to be able to win it in all three series now. That is something that is really special. I didn’t know if I would ever get a chance to run in the Truck Series, let alone all three. To be able to win Rookie of the Year, I think only two other guys have done it in all three. That is really cool to accomplish. It is a nice thing to achieve by the end of the year. You kind of start the season hoping that you win it and then to be able to lock it up is nice.”
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR ROOKIE YEAR?
“I don't know. I definitely had higher expectations coming into the year. It was a weird year. As a company, we struggled way more than we thought we would. I think last year I read a stat that SHR, in general, had 42 podium finishes and this year we only had four or five. You base your expectations off of last year and we just weren’t quite there from a performance standpoint. I think you alter them a little bit. For me, we were competitive in a couple of races and battling for a few wins and top-fives. I think we have proved that whenever we get the car driving right and have the speed we are fully capable of running up front with those guys. I wouldn’t say the season was a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I would say somewhere in the middle. There is still a lot that I have to do way better. The Cup guys are so good. You have to be on it 100-percent and clean up a lot of little things. I feel like going into the Next Gen car it will be nice to have a year under my belt and know all the little things to work on during the off-season to try to apply to next year.”
RILEY HERBST, No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang --
“I think we had a little bit going on with the motor and the power-steering, so the short runs we were loose and it was really hard to drive because I couldn’t counter steer to the right, just because the power-steering was going in and out. I was begging for long runs because once we got spread out and I could start just being easier on the front tires and then ultimately be easier on the steering. Thank you to Monster Energy, Ford Performance, Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s a good way to close out this year after kind of a really bumpy year to be honest with you. Hopefully, we can go into 2022 pretty strong.”
MUSTANG ADDS ANOTHER TITLE --
Mustang has dominated the NASCAR XFINITY Series since it joined the circuit full-time in 2011, winning at least one championship in 9-of-11 seasons. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won back-to-back drivers’ championships in 2011 and 2012 while Chris Buescher (2015) and Austin Cindric (2020) have one series title each. Roger Penske has dominated the owner’s championship, winning six times in the last nine seasons, including three in a row from 2013-15. Overall, Mustang has won 12 driver’s and owner’s championships combined.
MUSTANG NASCAR XFINITY CHAMPIONSHIP STREAK
2011 -- Driver’s Championship (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
2011 -- Owner’s Championship (Jack Roush, No. 6)
2012 -- Driver’s Championship (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
2013 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2014 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2015 -- Driver’s Championship (Chris Buescher)
2015 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2017 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2018 – Owner’s Championship (Stewart-Haas, No. 00)
2020 – Driver’s Championship (Austin Cindric)
2020 – Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2021 – Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)