DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Austin Cindric started the 2021 NASCAR XFINITY Series season the same way he ended 2020 -- with a victory.
Cindric managed to hold off the field in an overtime restart to take Saturday’s NXS opener at Daytona International Speedway. The defending series champion found himself on the inside of the front row for the final green-white-checkered restart and immediately got the lead thanks to a push from AJ Allmendinger. Cindric moved to the outside line, where he deftly used his rearview mirror to block Harrison Burton’s multiple attempts to pass.
For Cindric, who led 28 laps on the day, it was his ninth series victory and the first NXS win at Daytona for team owner Roger Penske.
Ford’s other two key drivers had solid afternoons before getting eliminated in separate multi-car accidents. Riley Herbst, debuting in the No. 98 Monster Energy Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, led 12 laps in Stage 1 but got nipped at the finish line by Brandon Jones and finished second. He got knocked out on lap 106 when Ty Dillon went three-wide going into turn three and ignited a 14-car wreck.
Ryan Sieg, making is Ford debut, also took a turn at the front as he led two times for a total of 23 laps, but his day ended when he got caught up in a nine-car accident as some cars slowed down to try and enter pit road under green. Herbst finished 26th while Sieg was 31st.
The series continues Saturday, Feb. 20 on the Daytona Road Course at 5 p.m. on FS1 and MRN.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS:
1st -- Austin Cindric
10th -- Jason White
20th -- Timmy Hill
26th -- Riley Herbst
30th -- Chad Finchum
31st -- Ryan Sieg
FORD PERFORMANCE QUOTES
WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Verizon 5G Ford Mustang
WALK US THROUGH THE FINAL LAPS AND HOW YOU FEEL?
“What a way to kickoff the season. I’m really proud of the speed our boys brought with me in the Verizon 5G Ford Mustang. I was actually kind of bummed that we missed qualifying because our single-lap speed in practice was so much better than what we’ve been here in the past. I really feel like over the no practice races we made our superspeedway cars better, so to be able to showcase that tonight makes me really proud, proud of the effort of the guys in the shop and obviously our road crew. To start off our season like this is incredible. I feel like I did those last couple laps I could take with me to tomorrow’s race, but definitely some great momentum.”
DID YOU KNOW PENSKE HAD NOT WON AN NXS RACE AT DAYTONA?
“I know that and I know that they’ve been leading at the white flag a lot of times, too. I think my engine tuner, Tommy Chandler, has actually been part of almost every single one of those second-place losses or whatever you want to call it. I’m sure he’s over the moon we were able to win this thing tonight. They were playing it before we got in the cars. They were playing it on the red flag. They were playing it on the jumbotron half the race, so I’m glad we were able to deliver. Roger was actually in the facility watching us, so that’s the second race in a row he’s been to and the second race we’ve won. I guess he’s got to come to more races for us.”
WHEN DO YOU TURN THE PAGE AND START LOOKING TO TOMORROW?
“That’s a great question. I definitely want to enjoy the moment with my guys. Winning at these type of racetracks is so difficult for so many different reasons. For me to be able to win this one, I want to enjoy it because it’s a great way to start the year, but it’s something that I’ll definitely appreciate. I’ve flipped here. I’ve been in the care center more times than I’ve finished. I’ve won here on the road course. I’ve won here on the rallycross track, so Daytona has had a lot of highs and lows for me, so definitely one of those tonight.”
ARE YOU HAVING BEEF FOR DINNER?
“Beef is what’s for dinner. I actually just got done talking to a whole group of folks that are watching in a suite between the Shell people and the head people at Penske and they’re having dinner and from what I understand they’re eating a lot of beef. Beef is the word tonight.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CUT OF BEEF?
“I’m a New York strip guy if we’re talking steaks here, but I’m not too picky. The bigger the better.”
HOW DO YOU FOLLOW THIS UP NOW? YOU’RE IN THE PLAYOFFS. IS IT CUP? IS IT MORE NXS WINS?
“My number one goal is to make it to Phoenix just like we did last year, making it to the Championship 4 and that starts every regular season race. I’m not gonna set out a goal of winning the championship. My main goal is to get back in that same position and obviously try and find a way to have our best day again. I’m excited. I’m over the moon that we were able to win this race in particular. One of my extracurricular goals heading into the season was to win on a superspeedway, not only is it the last type of racetrack left because apparently that was a big topic last year was the types of racetracks I haven’t been able to win at, so I’m glad to check all of those boxes for anyone who is wondering. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. I can’t take all the credit because we had a really fast race car. My spotter, Coleman Pressley, he equals my effort and that kind of relationship goes throughout this 22 team and makes me very proud to be a part of it and makes me want to wake up and work even harder.”
HOW INSTRUMENTAL IS COLEMAN AND WHAT WERE SOME MOMENTS YOU LEANED ON HIM?
“We were up last night still texting about what to do and what’s different and how to adjust. For me, he equals my effort and I think there’s a lot of guys on the 22 team that have that same mentality and I may be wrong, but this could be his first superspeedway win and he puts a lot of effort into it. I’m excited for him just as much as I am for me because we put a lot of thought into it. It’s one of those things you do all of the prep work and you try and at least convince yourself you’re just a little bit smarter than everybody else -- at least have some form of confidence, but half the time it never really shapes our or you’re able to use the things that you find and obviously that communication for us was definitely critical for tonight.”
CAN YOU COMPARE WHAT THE EMOTION MIGHT BE LIKE TOMORROW COMPARED TO TODAY?
“As far as just starting the Daytona 500 for me, it was really surreal when I lined up for that Duel. I was behind Kyle Larson, had Ryan Newman behind me. I remember being in third grade when Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 for Team Penske, and there was also a realization that there are a lot of guys that don’t know me at all. That’s gonna be the case tomorrow. I started on the front row tonight and I’ll start on the last row tomorrow, so definitely a balance shift and a lot more for me to learn and me and my spotter, Lorin (Ranier) are gonna have hopefully 500 miles to bone up our relationship and the repertoire to hopefully keep us out front and away from the messes.”
WHAT HAS CLICKED FOR YOU AND ALLOWED YOU TO DOMINATE?
“I wouldn’t say it’s dominate. I don’t think that gives our competition enough credit. Winning on a superspeedway there’s some luck involved and we were able to get that caution at the right time and get the lead, so I can’t take that for granted. I can’t pat myself on the back. We brought a fast race car. We executed. It’s the same thing we did in Phoenix, so we continue to do that and we’re able to continue to have nights like this and that’s where it all counts. It’s a total team effort and I’m proud to be part of it. I obviously have that chemistry with a group of guys that I’ve worked with for a long enough time to where we can be on the same page and, for me, it’s back to racing and it’s back to where we’re the happiest and I’m really happy the season has started.”
DO YOU FEEL STARTING ON THE POLE MADE ANY DIFFERENCE IN YOUR APPROACH TO TONIGHT’S RACE?
“I know I just said it a second ago, but I kind of forgot I started on pole and won the race. Statistically, I’d be curious as to how many guys have actually done that. It makes a difference, but there are a lot of times I got behind and behind on strategy and whatever else, stage two in particular. Myself and Ty Dillon worked our way up from pretty far back in a single-file line and that was pretty cool because I knew his experience he was gonna be willing to make those moves and he needed someone at the right time to be able to do that, so that was kind of the first time I’ve made that work and had somebody to work with on that. That was probably one of the cooler things I did tonight, to be honest. Winning the race, throwing the blocks, getting the restart, that’s all things you’ve got to do in the moment, but the planning and the preparation that it takes to be skilled enough to follow in line. I learned a lot from Ty watching that, so that was fun but definitely an up and down race for sure.”
DO YOU FEEL THIS WIN MAY HAVE SHOWED SOME CUP GUYS WHAT YOU CAN DO AND MAYBE WORK WITH YOU TOMORROW?
“That’s a great question. It’s probably something that will cycle in my mind, but it’s also something that I can’t control. The decisions my competitors make are not up to me. The best thing I can do is keep my nose clean and contribute in the right moments. That’s where my focus is. When I started in the XFINITY Series I had some tough speedway races to start out with and I actually reached out to Juan Montoya because he’s come from more of a similar background to me. I said, ‘Man, what do I gotta do to get people to trust me and help me and work with me?’ And he was like, ‘No, you’re thinking of it wrong. If you want to get somewhere, push.’ From there it’s been a complete mentality shift. Be the guy that’s helping. Be the guy that’s making a difference, not hoping somebody else is gonna make a difference for you. For me, it’s a reset to where I was three or four years ago with that mentality and hopefully build up my reputation. Obviously, we’ve got a fast Verizon 5G Ford Mustang for tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be able to keep the nose clean and utilize that speed.”
HOW BIG IS IT TO HAVE A VETERAN VOICE IN LORIN RANIER WITH YOU TOMORROW?
“Yeah, absolutely. Lorin is someone with a lot of experience. We haven’t gotten to work together much at all this week. We didn’t get any drafting runs in practice, so I had Coleman on the radio for my Duel just so there wasn’t any communication errors, more on my part not a confidence loss in him. He was cool with that and he knew once we get in the race we’ve got 500 miles to figure it out. It’s not the first time he’s actually spotted for me. I raced the 24 Hours here for AIM Vasser Sullivan back in 2019. He and Kevin Hamlin were on the radio, so it won’t be the first time I’ve listened to him on this racetrack, but a little different scenario.”
WHAT’S THE NEXT GOAL TO CHECK OFF THE LIST?
“That’s a great question. I think for us it’s continuing to build off of this -- bringing fast race cars and not getting comfortable. This is a team that’s accustomed to winning races and that’s for a lot of reasons and a lot of that is in the preparation. When I go back to the shop on Monday it’s back to work. When we were at the Daytona road course last time I wasn’t overly happy with how our car drove and we went to work in the offseason on options for that. I have some data from what the Cup guys did in the Clash, so I’m already thinking about that, but at the same time I have to pause those thoughts. Overall, there are a lot of racetracks, a lot of diverse racetracks on the schedule this year that I’m looking forward to going to.”
DO YOU THINK DRIVERS WHO WATCHED THE RACE AND SAW WHAT YOU DID WILL END UP HELPING YOU AND DOES IT GIVE YOU A LITTLE MORE CONFIDENCE TO SAY YOU CAN DO THIS?
“Yeah, it certainly is not going to hurt. I think most people, especially in that garage, will watch the race on Saturday to understand what the track is doing, how things are working and now we’re getting the race season started and everyone is just excited to watch racing. For me, it certainly can’t hurt. I obviously displayed some sort of competence for this, but past that I can’t speculate on other people’s decisions around me. I’ll make myself the most valuable as I can and predictable as I can and try to showcase the speed we have in our Verizon 5G Ford Mustang.”
WHAT’S WITH PLANTING THE FLAG?
“I don’t know, so, like, I thought hugs were gonna be my thing, and then this Coronavirus kind of screwed all that up. That would be bad to hug people, so I kind of got the wind knocked out of my sails, so when I won at Kentucky I was so tired. That was a stretch of races where it was like overflow like, ‘Oh my God. Thank God we finally won a race this year.’ So I just stuffed it in the ground like I’ll come back and get it tomorrow because it was a doubleheader and it’s kind of grown from there. I’ve actually never kept any of the checkered flags I’ve won in my NASCAR races for the specific reason that when I won the truck race in Canada the flag actually broke in my hand and one of the crew guys caught it like a bouquet at a wedding. So, if I don’t have all of them, I’m not gonna keep any of them. It means a lot to those guys, so hopefully we can get many more this year.”
WHAT KIND OF HUG?
“Big bear hugs. There’s enough pictures of me picking up people on my team. Probably the best one was when I won the K&N race at VIR and I picked up Chris Carrier in victory lane, or Rutledge Wood on the front straightaway at Watkins was pretty good. I’m a hugger, so that’s just who I am. Someday I’ll be able to showcast that again.”
ANY IDEA HOW YOU WANT TO RACE TOMORROW? DO YOU WANT TO RACE AT THE FRONT AND LEAD LAPS?
“It’s a balance because when you watch these races back, these Cup races, the first three guys in each row are working the hardest. They are taking the most risk and you don’t want to put yourself in a position to where you’re risking your car, but you also know that the further up you are the less cars you’re around and the less chance you have of getting wrecked. That’s a hard position to balance because you’ve got to shove the snot out of whoever is in front of you. That’s the expectation. That’s what these cars are doing and I think it’s great for the fans, but for a 500-mile race it will definitely be stressful. Balancing that, if we find our way towards the front, we’ll try and stay there, but otherwise strategy works in a lot of different ways in this race and I think a lot of my prep work tonight is gonna be balancing how important is that and what the race length is really gonna mean to my aggression level.”
HOW BIG OF A DEAL IS IT FOR YOU TO BE DOING SO WELL WITH VERIZON ON YOUR HOOD?
“It’s really cool. To be able to drive a Verizon race car is special because I grew up going to Indy Car races. I grew up rooting for Will Power, rooting for Juan Montoya. Those guys obviously put that car in victory lane so many times and I’ve gotten to meet some of those people since I’ve been a kid and to drive one of their race cars and bring them back into NASCAR in a sponsorship role is really cool. They’re an extremely visible brand, so for me to have that opportunity this young in my career, to work with a group of people like that, that have that much exposure is a great opportunity, but at the same time it’s pretty cool. Fans love recognizable brands and the reaction that everyone had to Verizon being on my car for this whole week was really cool, and I hope that was embraced really well by those folks and hopefully this isn’t the last weekend.”
HOW MUCH DOES THIS WIN PUMP YOU UP FOR TOMORROW?
“I have to calm myself down, to be honest. I have to regulate my expectations for tomorrow, but I definitely want to enjoy. These wins don’t come easy. Even winning the series in general doesn’t come easy. You’ve got to respect that moment and learn to enjoy it. There were a couple races last year when we got on that stretch where you were more focused on how to get your car better even though you won the race. I’ve definitely learned some lessons from that and really being able to enjoy the moment. You spend the whole offseason preparing for this one race to get back racing and to be able to do it in this way is really cool.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED HARRISON BURTON DIDN’T FAKE LOW AND THEN TRY TO PASS HIGH?
“I’ve got to watch a replay because I don’t know what fake low, I mean, I know he faked low and went high or faked high and went low. All I know is I was shocked that I didn’t hook myself off his front bumper. Those are blocks that I’m not gonna be able to pull at least in the moment. Maybe the replay doesn’t look as intense, but from my seat I’ve never looked in the rearview mirror so much and never looked at the racetrack. I mean, if I would have crossed the double yellow line I wouldn’t have known it. I feel somewhat fortunate in that scenario, but the moment I threw those blocks you’ve got to reset for the next run because there’s not too many cars left in the pack. It’s very surgy and I was fortuante to be able to find the 02 as I did and obviously stall the runs for coming to the start-finish line.”
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR TOMORROW WITH A DIFFERENT PACKAGE AND HOW DID YOUR DUEL HELP YOU GET COMFORTABLE WITH IT?
“I think I learned a lot of things in the Duel. Some things good, obviously don’t speed on pit road, but I was actually a lot more comfortable than I thought I was going to be as far as pushing in the situation to be aggressive. I think there were some things that we had to get our of our car a little bit better. I wish we would have had more practice today to be able to confirm those things, but, overall, I’ve got a lot to learn. These guys are obviously the best in this sport. We’re talking about Denny Hamlin going for three straight Daytona 500 wins. That’s an incredible mark, so to think I’m having to beat a guy like that or even any of my teammates, it’s a challenge. I’m definitely regulating those expectations and knowing I’ve got to get to the end first. Everything else that I learn is a bonus if we get to the end and hopefully have a shot.”
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Verizon 5G Ford Mustang
VICTORY LANE INTERVIEWS
“What an awesome race. What a really fast Verizon 5G Ford Mustang. Unbelievable effort by everyone at Team Penske. Obviously, coming off a lot of momentum winning that championship last year, but nothing is guaranteed and keep working hard. Congrats to my man Coleman up on the roof. He puts in just as much effort or more as I do. I’m proud of him and we’ll try to go do it again tomorrow, I guess.”
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT A TRIP TO THE CARE CENTER.
“I’m just excited that I get to come back here tomorrow and run in front of a great group of people. We have fans here. I’m excited for the Great American Race tomorrow.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE FIRST NXS DRIVER TO WIN AT DAYTONA FOR TEAM PENSKE?
“It feels great. Our guys have delivered on bringing us extremely fast race cars. Forget who hasn’t been able to do it, we’ve got some amazing drivers in our camp and right place at the right time and able to get this Verizon 5G Ford Mustang in victory lane on the biggest stage in NASCAR.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN HERE AT DAYTONA?
“The thing that’s really cool about winning tonight is that I’ve won on the road course here. I’ve won on the superspeedway, and I won the rallycross race they had here, so anything with four wheels, man, Daytona I guess is a decent place. I walked out of here on Wednesday night pissed off that we didn’t qualify in on time and luck has been in a good spot ever since, so really proud of the effort and continue on to next week.”
RILEY HERBST, No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang
“It was good. It was cool to lead the race and almost come away with the stage, but then it’s just frustrating. It is what it is. Hopefully, we can come back here next week and have a good showing on the road course.”
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH HOW YOU AND YOUR NEW TEAM WORKED TOGETHER?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s definitely something to be proud of. I think it’s something to acknowledge how well me and the 22 worked together. I wish I could have found him a little later on in the race like we did in the first stage, but we’re just getting started here. I think this is all stuff we can take to the next plate track at Talladega, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m just really bummed out about the circumstances there.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE FROM YOUR VANTAGE POINT IN THE WRECK?
“The 54 just cleared himself and got spun. I missed that. I was on the apron, and I was pretty pumped because I missed that and then I believe somebody hit the 7 and the 7 came down and got me in the right-rear and shot me up towards the wall, which is a bummer. We’ll just move on to next week.”