Team Penske’s Joey Logano will enter the 2022 season with Austin Cindric as a new teammate. The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion is preparing for the change by making a simple request from the new driver of the No. 2 Ford Mustang. Logano needs Cindric to push him as a competitor.
The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford made the comments during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR’s “Behind the Wheel” prior to a trip to Watkins Glen International. Logano explained during the conversation that both Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski pushed him during their time together in the organization but now Cindric will have to partially take over this role when Keselowski heads to Roush Fenway Racing.
“I look at Ryan Blaney [and] Austin Cindric. They have their own ways to push you along too,” Logano said. “We can all complement each other and make each other better. That’s what you want in a teammate. I don’t want to be the guy that is light years ahead of my teammates. Because then who is pushing you?
“You want teammates who can push you along and make you a better race car driver,” Logano continued. “That’s ultimately going to make the company better. When I think about what Ryan Blaney has done over the past few years, especially on the 550 [horsepower] race tracks, that’s pushing me. That’s pushing me for sure. Those are his best race tracks, and he’s the best on 550s in our company right now.”
Logano Expects Cindric to Push Him During Certain Types of Races
The veteran driver continued to explain how the new dynamic with Cindric will work during the 2022 season. The defending Xfinity Series champion may be a rookie learning how to fully compete against the best drivers in the Cup Series, but Logano expects a considerable push at road courses.
Cindric has started six Cup Series races in 2021 to prepare for his upcoming move, which includes two trips to road courses. He competed at Circuit of the Americas on May 23 and then at Road America on July 4 while driving the No. 33 Team Penske Ford Mustang. Cindric finished outside of the top 20 in both races, but he showed that he could contend for a spot at the front of the pack.
Starting third after a strong qualifying session at COTA, Cindric headed out onto the 20-turn road course as the rain began to fall. Several drivers headed back to the pits after one lap to get rain tires instead of slicks, but he remained out and built up a significant lead over the first four laps. He easily navigated the road course on his slicks while other drivers still slid around with their rain tires. Though Cindric ultimately headed to the pits for rain tires at the end of the fifth lap and gave up his position at the front of the pack.
Cindric turned heads with his early performance and then continued to do so during the July 4 race at Road America. He battled with Matt DiBenedetto and led two laps in the No. 33 Ford. However, a mechanical issue sent him to the garage early at the road course, ending his day after only 35 of the 62 laps.
The Entire Organization Expects Strong Performances From Cindric
Logano is not the only member of Team Penske that expects Cindric to take over the No. 2 Ford Mustang and begin pushing him and Ryan Blaney on the race track. Team owner Roger Penske also addressed the young driver’s future in mid-July during a media session with reporters. He explained how Cindric’s performance as a driver made it an easy decision to put him in the No. 2 Ford Mustang.
“I couldn’t be prouder to say that he’s gonna be the driver of the No. 2 car, and I think he’s earned the respect,” Penske said to media members, per NASCAR. “You come in as the son of the guy who is the president of Team Penske, you’d probably come in with a little bit of weight on your shoulders, but I can tell you one thing, as far as I’m concerned, all that’s off. He’s proven to be the driver he is, the individual he is today.”
Penske continued and explained that Cindric had some strong performances early in the season. He specifically mentioned the Daytona 500 where the driver ran well before one of the multiple crashes relegated him to a 15th-place finish.
Running well early in multiple races is a sign of progress, but it does not automatically translate to strong performances. Cindric will have to prove early in his rookie season that he can contend for top-10 finishes and finish the job while driving a very competitive stock car.