Considering how eventful NASCAR Cup Series playoff races continue to be for Austin Cindric, a ninth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway was nothing he would compl ain about.
Cindric overcame crash damage from a lap 24 incident where Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turned Harrison Burton from the outside lane. The front of the No. 2 Ford took the brunt of the impact, requiring attention under caution. Fortunately, it wasn’t a lingering problem to deal with, but it did bog Cindric down the rest of the afternoon.
“It was bad enough for us to lose the draft,” he said. “We had crash damage the last time we were here that unsealed the air box and that was probably worse. Even in the pack, I just lost the draft, so today I was just slow because the damage caved in on the front – enough to where I was plenty good behind three cars, but not leading anybody, that’s for sure.”
He ended the stage pushing teammate Ryan Blaney to the front and earning himself seven points. Doing so was an important part of Cindric’s day and playoff hopes.
“Stage points are a big deal. Obviously, helping the No. 12 car get a stage win was big, and recovery from the wreck, damage control, and driving back up through the field — I think when everybody kind of scatters to try and do what’s best for them, it’s very important to be decisive and I was able to make some good moves and be able to be in some lanes that moved. Call it 50/50 decisiveness and 50 percent luck, but overall, it certainly puts us in a good spot to race for a spot in the Round of 8 at the Roval, so we’ll put our best foot forward and have some fun next week.”
At the end of the stage, though, C indric’s team had to deal with another minor issue: replacing the right side window that had become a nuance and in danger of flying out.
“I don’t know if it’s from coming down on the banking avoiding that wreck or running into the back of guys,” he said. “Obviously, contact in the car is pretty hard and apparently the window wouldn’t latch anymore. Maybe the latch was bent; I’m not sure. But put the spare one in and had no problem.”
Cindric is still championship eligible, but it has been a battle since the postseason began. Talladega threw a wreck and window issue at him a week after he spun avoiding Stenhouse, losing a potential top-10 finish. In the first round, he had tire issues at Bristol after two weeks of fighting the car and restarts at Darlington Raceway and Kansas Speedway.
“That’s what happens when you’re at the bottom and you’re vulnerable to just about everything,” Cindric said with some humor. “But I have nothing to lose, so I’m OK with it. I’m pretty calm about it. I have a great shot at advancing into the Round of 8 as a rookie, and that sounds fun.”
Sunday’s performance puts Cindric in a tie for the final transfer spot going to the Charlotte Roval.
“There are certainly worst places to be going, but I think there are still plenty of unknowns and potentially durability concerns,” he said of the race ahead. “That’s somewhere where we’ve had steering issues in the past with the old car. Personally, I feel like our company has d one a good job at that, but the place is tough on equipment — really tough on equipment, even the curbs and both chicanes.
“I think that will be another test, but you’ve got to make it to the end. We’ve got to do everything next week – get stage points and a good finish.”