Austin Cindric to drive fourth Penske entry, bidding for Cup Series debut in Daytona 500

Austin Cindric’s plans to graduate to the NASCAR Cup Series received a dose of Wednesday morning clarity, with Team Penske announcing a fourth Daytona 500 entry reserved for the reigning Xfinity Series champion.

Cindric is set to drive Penske’s No. 33 Ford in an attempt to qualify for The Great American Race (Feb. 14, 2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). Should he make the field, it would mark the 22-year-old driver’s Cup Series debut, the first step toward a full-time ride with Wood Brothers Racing in 2022.

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Miles Stanley, who has served as a race engineer on Penske’s efforts for Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, will hold crew-chief duties for the No. 33 entry this season. Team Penske officials indicated other select events on Cindric’s part-time Cup Series schedule this year would be announced at a later date.

“There is a lot to be excited about heading into Daytona,” Cindric said in a team release. “It doesn’t really even need to be said that the Daytona 500 is the biggest crown jewel race in NASCAR and one of the biggest races in the world, so to have a shot to be in the show while driving for Roger Penske is a big opportunity. Qualifying our way into the race as an ‘open’ car will be a big challenge. I look forward to working with Miles and all of the guys on the No. 33 team, while also continuing my focus on winning back-to-back Xfinity Series championships.”

Cindric drove to six victories in the Xfinity Series last season, including a title-clinching win in the Phoenix Raceway finale in his 100th career start. He’ll return to Team Penske’s No. 22 ride this year for his fourth full season on the Xfinity circuit.

When not atop the No. 33 pit box, Stanley will continue in his role as a race engineer for Team Penske’s No. 12 outfit for driver Ryan Blaney.

“Ever since I joined Team Penske in 2013, I’ve been able to grow as an engineer and learn from some of the best in the business,” Stanley said. “Now I get the chance to become a Cup Series crew chief with one of the formidable organizations in the sport, which is an amazing opportunity. To get to do it with Austin at Daytona International Speedway is a perfect recipe for success. I look forward to working with him and hitting the ground running with the No. 33 Ford team in Daytona and the other Cup Series races that Austin runs in 2021.”

The No. 33 was last used in the Cup Series in the 2017 season finale, with Jeffrey Earnhardt driving a Chevrolet owned by Joe Falk.