CONCORD, North Carolina — The first driver into the NASCAR Cup Series playoff field nearly became the first rookie to advance to the Round of 8. However, Austin Cindric had to watch Chase Briscoe get that honor instead.
Cindric won the season opening Daytona 500 and spent the duration of the regular season learning. He was learning this car, learning these tracks and learning how to be a driver in NASCAR’s premiere series. That’s why until we hit the summer months, you saw more of him struggling than contending.
However, Cindric had tracks that suited him well, road courses being one of them. He had a top 10 in 4 of the 5 of them. Which is why despite being 12 points below the cutline entering Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400, he was still confident that he could make up ground on the ones in front.
He finished 5th in Stage 1 to get 6 much needed points. However, so did the guys in front of him too. For Stage 2, he was 12th and didn’t get enough to get by. He now had to make some magic happen without track position in the final stage.
It nearly worked before being spun by Erik Jones in the bus stop on the 2nd to last lap of the Round of 12 elimination race. At that point, he was -1 on Kyle Larson. That spin cost him a shot at a championship as he’d fall to finish 21st as a result.
“We were in a position where I needed one more spot,” said Cindric “I was working to get that spot. I just screwed that up, so… I think he hit me there at the end. Doesn’t matter either way. Trying to drive a little desperate for 30-lap older tires than every car around me. Tried to make something happen.
“Probably could have done something better throughout the day, trying to figure out where to get track position, when to have tires, when not to. A bit of a cluster.
“We were golden there if that red flag wouldn’t have come out. Great spot to get in. The way these go. If we get the finish we deserve at Texas, we’re not even in this position.
“Just frustrating. But that’s Playoff racing. There’s a lot of guys who have had a lot worse luck in the Playoffs. Learned a lot in my rookie season, proud to have a shot to finish out the season strong and have fun the next couple weeks.”
He just didn’t do enough in the playoffs to get by. His finishes were 16th, 12th and 20th in Round 1 and 15th, 9th and 21st in the second round. Was he second guessing the call in Stage 2 however?
“It’s so hard to calculate that out, I mean, when you’re dealing with one or two points, like I said, there at the end. I needed one or two points. That one or two points we thought we were going to get, we had some cars we probably didn’t anticipate staying out in stage two that we didn’t think their priority was going to be stage points.
“Miscommunication or a bad call, whatever you want to call it. It’s tough when it is that one or two spot and you’re relying on other guys to make decisions that benefit you.”