The Round of 16 came to an end on September 17 with four Cup Series drivers getting eliminated from championship contention. Austin Cindric avoided the proverbial axe, and he followed in the footsteps of another Rookie of the Year winner.
Cindric made his way to the Round of 12 by virtue of two points. He became the first rookie since the 2016 season to make it beyond the first round of the playoffs. Chase Elliott was the last rookie to do so, and he accomplished this feat by turning in two third-place finishes in the first three playoff races. Christopher Buescher also made the 2016 playoffs as a rookie, but his journey ended in the Round of 16.
Cindric joined Elliott on this list of standout rookies, but now he has an opportunity to make it further in the playoffs. Elliott did not survive the Round of 12 in 2016 after a 33rd-place finish at Charlotte, a 31st-place finish at Kansas, and a 12th-place finish at Talladega.
Cindric will face one of these tracks — Talladega — during the 2022 Round of 12. He will take on the superspeedway on October 2 after first going to Texas Motor Speedway. He will then finish off the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Roval.
Cindric Experienced Some Struggles at Bristol Motor Speedway
Making it to the Round of 12 was not even remotely simple. Cindric experienced his share of struggles during the cutoff race, and he fell multiple laps behind the field. However, he was able to survive the battle of attrition and secure just enough points while others fell short.
Cindric had two tire failures during the race, including one early in Stage 1. He was also caught up in an incident involving Aric Almirola and Harrison Burton, which nearly ended his night. Cindric was able to continue and finish 20th overall. He held off Tyler Reddick (25th) and Kyle Busch (34th) by two points.
“For a while, I was just trying as hard as I can and as they fell off like flies just trying not to force any issues, try not to force any more right-front tire failures,” Cindric said after the race, quote courtesy of Ford Performance.
“From there, I think I was tied with the 18 for 100 laps, but just one hell of a night. I still don’t think this place loves me back, but it probably showed me a little mercy tonight, so I’ll take it and run with it. We’ll be on offense for the next three races just like we were to start Darlington this round and have some fun with it.”
Cindric Starts the Round of 12 at Another Disadvantage
The 2022 Rookie of the Year avoided elimination by the slimmest of margins, but he is nowhere near safe heading toward Texas Motor Speedway. Cindric enters the Round of 12 below the cutline.
NASCAR reseeded the playoff points after the trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. Elliott now sits atop the standings once again at 3,040 points while Joey Logano is second at 3,025. Cindric, for comparison, is one of the four drivers below the initial cutline.
Cindric enters the Round of 12 with 3,006 points. He is one point below Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez and three points behind Chase Briscoe. This is a disadvantage, but he is within reach of the final transfer spot where Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, and Denny Hamlin sit with 3,013 points.