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Austin Cindric Escapes the Atlanta Madness in P4


Austin Cindric (middle) in a three-wide battle with Chase Briscoe (left) and Ryan Blaney (right). (Photo: Joshua White | The Podium Finish)

HAMPTON, Ga. — Austin Cindric began Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 in Atlanta Motor Speedway with expectations of having another strong superspeedway run. In the end, he was able to bring the car home in one piece, which nearly everyone wished they can make such claim.

Out of the 37-car field, Cindric was one of only three drivers, Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. being the others, who did not end up being involved in any single form of crashes during the 260-lap madness, let alone, have any issues ranging from mechanical problems or flat tires.

When the dust finally settled, Cindric earned a Stage 2 win and finished fourth in what can be easily described as “best of the rest” on a race that witnessed a three-wide photo finish which marked the third closest Cup Series finish in history.

While Cindric did not bring Team Penske its third spring Atlanta win in the last four races, it was a result that reflected his performance. But the agony of defeat was clear in Cindric’s remarks after the 400-mile event.

“It’s really unfortunate to have two weeks in a row where I feel like Team Penske has brought three of the best race cars to the racetrack and not come home with a win,” said Cindric. “Obviously, we got really close with (Blaney). It was fun to lead laps and win the stage. I got in a real tight aero spot while I was following Ryan and washed up the track a bit.

“He was, honestly, in a really tough spot with the runs that were coming from behind. I thought he was gonna be able to hold on, but the first win for the Mustang Dark Horse has to wait another race, but I’m really proud of the effort. It should be a really great points day for us, so that puts us on the right side of things heading into Vegas.”


Cindric leading the Penske trio train in Atlanta. (Photo: Ricky Martinez | The Podium Finish)

Despite some disappointment, positive gains were well made for Cindric’s No. 2 squad after being involved in a multi-car crash in last Monday’s Daytona 500 when an unclear block by Ross Chastain sent him into a spin coming to the white flag as he was setting himself up for the win. The crash relegated Cindric to a disappointing 22nd place finish after leading 13 laps.

Had it not been for the photo finish where Daniel Suarez eked out Blaney by 0.003 seconds and an additional 0.004 seconds over Kyle Busch, the move of the race would have been Cindric in the final stage.

As the sun was winding down, the adrenaline flow kicked into high gear for the field with Cindric being the protagonist in the moment. Coming to 50 laps remaining, a three-wide frenzy was going down between pole sitter Michael McDowell, who was overcoming a crash with William Byron as they were entering the pit lane commitment line earlier, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Briscoe.

Running in fourth was Cindric, who was all alone as everyone in front and behind him were three abreast. Such situation did not faze Cindric and decided to go into business for himself and dove low of the leaders in the dogleg and cleared by the trio for the race lead. The move began a sequence of events where the four-wide battles carried on for a lap where everyone managed to keep their cars in toe without a big crash unfolding.

As Benny Parsons once said after Andy Hillenburg’s late-race charge during the 1997 ARCA finale in Atlanta, Cindric’s Ford Mustang did felt like it was “shot out of a canyon.”

“That was kind of cool, wasn’t it?” Cindric on the four-wide move for the lead. “Four-wide at Atlanta, that doesn’t really work in the corners, it only works in the straights, but I had enough time to think about if it was a good idea and it was a good idea. I’m sure it looked cool and made for good pictures.”

Adding more remarks on the pass, Cindric assured he would be the kind of racer who wouldn’t be bashful in making such maneuver. In his words, “someone’s gotta do it.”

“They were only four-wide with me for about half-a-second. I had a big enough run that didn’t last too long. I did look in my mirrors expecting them to wreck being four-wide for that many laps. That is pretty impressive,” Cindric explained.

“What the viewer doesn’t understand is how difficult it is to follow at this racetrack, especially when you have all that turbulent air coming out of the hood next to the other cars. That’s what got me at the end, honestly, guys just running close to me. It’s not easy to do, but I guess that’s why they call us the best in the world.”


Cindric led twice for 32 laps in Sunday’s chaotic 260-lap Atlanta race. (Photo: Ricky Martinez | The Podium Finish)

As alluded by Cindric, his time up front would not last long as his last five out of the 32 laps he led Sunday occurred from the ballsy maneuver. After being passed by Denny Hamlin, the former Daytona 500 champion wouldn’t regained the lead again, but remained in the front pack and more importantly, not a single scratch in his No. 2 Menards/Knauf Insulation Ford Mustang.

“It was fun to lead. I’m sure some of the guys weren’t having fun,” said Cindric. “There was a lot of wrecks today, but from my seat it was fun to lead.”

After two races, Cindric moves up from a two-way tie with Corey LaJoie for 11th to a two-way tie for second in the regular season standings heading to the two-race West Coast Swing, beginning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Both Cindric and Byron trail championship leader Busch by a single point.

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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