Austin Cindric had a mixed reaction after clinching the NASCAR Xfinity Series Regular Season Championship on Saturday at Richmond Raceway.
The No. 22 Team Penske driver collected 15 bonus points for the playoffs and will be the No. 1 seed when the standings reset prior to the Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Cindric is 71 points ahead of second place in the points standings, which is mathematically impossible to overcome in next Friday’s regular-season finale at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I’m not much of a goal-setter,” Cindric said in the post-race Zoom media availability. “The goals are pretty straightforward in NASCAR these days and that’s winning races. But, as a team, we sat down and I put it at the top of my list: regular-season championship. That pays off the biggest playoff points and that’s a real mark of how strong your team is and how consistent you’re able to be that strong.”
But Cindric couldn’t help but feel disappointed about the 10th-place finish in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 250 at the .75-mile track. For a team that has five wins, 16 top fives and 20 top 10s on the year so far, scoring 10th isn’t exactly a cause for celebration.
“At the same time, I’m not really proud of our effort today,” Cindric said. “Really frustrating afternoon, especially because I rate this as one of my better tracks. We usually practice in the daytime here and we’re usually pretty terrible in practice, but we show up in the race pretty big. Probably just not a big enough notebook to lean on from that standpoint of things.”
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Also, Cindric admitted he was coached out of fighting for more positions toward the end of the race in lieu of staying out of trouble to earn the regular-season title, but he was unsure if he still would have been able to enhance his final result.
“I think I would have moved a couple people,” Cindric said. “I didn’t want to use up any favors today. There’s a lot of hard racing, I mean it’s short-track racing. You’re going to have that. You’re going to have guys driving in deep, especially with how wide the entry is into (Turn) 1 and have guys block the runs and crowding people. It’s frustrating … when you’re outside of the top five, you’re having to race really, really hard, and it’s even worse the further back you get.”
Cindric, who has been a full-time driver in Xfinity for the past three years, has seven total victories in the series. The 22-year-old swept a weekend at Kentucky Speedway earlier this year and also has wins at Texas Motor Speedway, Road America and Daytona International Speedway Road Course. His previous wins in 2019 came at Watkins Glen International and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. This year’s Round of 12 in the Xfinity playoffs will conclude at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, which bodes well for another potential win given Cindric’s proven road-course prowess.
Aside from Cindric locking up the regular-season hardware, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg clinched playoff spots Saturday at Richmond, leaving just one spot open with the regular-season finale set for Friday at Bristol (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Although Cindric has earned a massive amount of playoff points that have him in a nice position heading into the postseason, don’t think for a second he’ll be backing down next weekend because there’s still more points up for grabs.
“Relax at Bristol? That doesn’t happen,” Cindric said. “I am looking forward to it and looking forward to pushing hard and seeing what this team is capable of over the next couple of months.”