Austin Cindric ‘Came to Life’ at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Austin Cindric

Getty Austin Cindric had a whirlwind afternoon in Phoenix.

Don’t look now, but Team Penske’s Austin Cindric has turned his season around. The Daytona 500 winner has struggled for much of the 2022 Cup Series season, but he is on a hot streak heading toward the playoffs.

The driver of the No. 2 Ford Mustang was not in the mix during the early portions of the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart. He didn’t secure stage points during the first 160 laps, but he worked his way into the top-10 during the final run to the checkered flag. Cindric ultimately ended the day third overall, his fourth straight top-10 finish.

“It came to life. We had to do a little CPR there early,” Cindric said after the race, quote courtesy of Ford Performance. “We were struggling pretty bad. We were pretty loose to start the race and I’m just proud of the effort from the guys on the [No.] 2 car, being able to make the right adjustments and get us out of a hole there.

“We went from not being able to go full throttle by myself on the racetrack to being able to run close behind other guys wide-open, so I’m proud of that effort and proud of a top-three finish. I felt like we deserved to be up there by the end of the race after we established track position. It was a solid day. I wish we could have gotten the Quaker State Ford in victory lane in the Quaker State 400, but a top-three is pretty good.”

ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!

Sign up for the Heavy on NASCAR Newsletter!

The Turnaround Began After a Grueling Race


Cindric, who has three finishes outside the top 30 due to crashes, began to gain ground after the Coca-Cola 600. He finished 34th in the Memorial Day weekend race, but he finished 11th at World Wide Technology Raceway the following week.

The Coca-Cola 600 was a key turning point considering that Cindric had run inside the top 10 early in the Crown Jewel race. However, a cut tire sent him hard into the wall and ended his day early.

The progress continued at Sonoma Raceway, a track where Cindric had not previously competed in a national series race. He used his history competing on road courses in a variety of vehicles to turn in a fifth-place finish, which was his second top-five of the year.

Cindric followed up the Sonoma race with back-to-back top-10 finishes. He captured seventh place at Nashville Superspeedway after the off-week, and then he finished seventh at Road America one week later. These two performances helped him jump from 18th in points to 14th.

Cindric is moving up the leaderboard ahead of the playoffs, but the rookie still has work to do. He only has one stage win and five playoff points from his Daytona 500 win. This is fewer than several other drivers, which would put him below the cutline early in the playoffs.

Cindric Has a Significant Lead Over His Fellow Rookies

Austin Cindric

GettyAustin Cindric leads during the Quaker State 400 Cup Series race.

The driver of the No. 2 kicked off the season with a win in the Daytona 500, which gave him an early headstart in the Rookie of the Year battle. Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton have each gained ground during the 2022 season, but Cindric is now making moves once again.

Cindric entered the Atlanta race weekend 14th in the championship standings with 431 points. Burton was 28th with 277 points while Gilliland was 29th with 264 points. Cindric left Atlanta with 34 points while Burton locked up 31 after finishing 10th overall, the first top-10 of his career. Gilliland added 20 points to his total after a 17th-place finish.

Cindric is now 13th in the championship standings after leapfrogging Road America winner Tyler Reddick. He has 465 points after the Atlanta race weekend while Burton is up to 308 points. Gilliland has 284 points. The Rookie of the Year battle is by no means over, but Cindric does have a sizable advantage.

READ NEXT: Austin Dillon Takes Shot at Ross Chastain After Atlanta Crash

Read More