Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang Dark Horse in the NASCAR Cup Series, is coming off a victory on Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway. He answered questions from the media about what that win means to him and his team while also looking ahead to this weekend’s event at Sonoma Raceway.

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang Dark Horse – WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS? “It’s been great. Obviously, it’s a short turnaround, probably shorter than most weeks with Sonoma and cars having to leave this morning. My guys didn’t have much time to turn around and we had to do the whole car yesterday, so we got all the families of the guys on my team together, pit crew, road crew and went out and had dinner last night. We went and did the win donuts that I would traditionally do at Roush Yates it’s just been a while. I went to the engine shop this morning. We’ll have our happy hour as a team during lunch today, so all great things. There is definitely still a pulse on it. It’s a pretty big moment for us and a lot of momentum for the team.”

BRIAN WILSON INDICATED THAT THE CREW CHIEFS PLAN AND STRATEGIZE THE UPCOMING RACES EARLY IN THE WEEK. ARE YOU AWARE OF WHAT THE STRATEGY IS GOING INTO THE RACE? “At the end of the day, I do whatever he says. I feel like we have a good enough relationship that if I have input, I’ll give it. Otherwise, he’s the one that’s dealing with all the information as far as seeing it all in real time as it’s happening. I feel like a turning point in that race was some of those cars staying out on those really old tires, being able to still make somewhat competitive lap time or at least make it hard for guys with four tires to go by, and I really feel like that somewhat diverted some of our strategy to maybe something more aggressive as to what we did. Obviously, we only stopped a handful of times in the race and we had good enough cars to do so. I didn’t have a whole lot of fall off or a whole lot of balance migration throughout the run, so the car was super predictable and it just opens up a lot of windows and I felt like we had a top three car and I felt like our strategy was top tier as well.”

WHAT’S THE FEELING LIKE COMING INTO THE TEAM MEETING THIS WEEK AS A WINNER? “It’s no different. I feel like this week is unique because Sonoma has got the repave and there’s a lot of unknowns with that, so how do you gather as much information, as much data, how relevant is the information and the data that you have on Sonoma towards what are you doing, and then how do you utilize the 50-minute practice session in an efficient way. When it comes to the process in relation to winning the race, I think it makes our Gateway debrief somewhat shorter than maybe a more difficult race as far as like, ‘Hey, what do I want for next time?’ We had a super competitive car and kind of just looking for small knobs to make it even better and go over why things went well versus last year’s previous events, other cars in the field. We definitely make good notes because you want to come back there and do that all again as a team, but as far as the process itself, winning and running that well it’s a validation of the process that we’ve put together as a team if we’re able to put a fast car on the racetrack, make the right decisions in the race car. That is enough for us to be at the top level on a good day.”

WHY IS IT YOU’RE ABLE TO NATURALLY ACHIEVE SUCCESS ON ROAD COURSES? “It’s hard to say. I feel like track to track it certainly changes. I feel like Sonoma and Watkins Glen are probably two of the hardest road course races to go into as a new guy. I mean, there are so many laps and so much experience from the traditional Cup Series field of drivers, but, otherwise, I think the game has honestly changed in the last five or six years when it comes to road course racing. There’s been a lot more races on the schedule and a lot more guys that have put much more of an emphasis on their preparation and how to go about that the right way to be prepared and to compete at a high level in those races. Obviously, you get the Street Course and a guy like SVG comes in, who is an absolute stud, and it’s no surprise he ran extremely well and had a shot to win the race, so I think as far as it relates to me, in the Cup Series I would say 2021 with the older car was probably a little bit better for me on the road courses than the Next Gen car. I feel like we’ve had some good races, but we haven’t had great races and I feel like in some ways it’s somewhat of the expectation, but I feel like you can never underestimate your competition. There are some pretty talented guys in the field and it’s definitely hard to separate yourself.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE XFINITY PROGRAM COME BACK TO PENSKE? “I think from a team standpoint we have certainly found different ways to continue to add depth to the race team. That’s what the Xfinity program really is for, whether that’s developing drivers, developing crew members or developing pit crew athletes. That’s what those programs are really good for, but obviously from my perspective driving on the racetrack, it’s 50/50 for me. I feel like some guys might feel differently, but, for me, when I did double-duty races in 2021 it was really difficult just because, and even then with the cars being as similar as they were, where as right now they’re not very similar at all. You listen to Chase Elliott talk about how different that Xfinity car felt to him after years of not running that style of car, I feel like that’s very much the case. In 2021 when I did double-duty races, I put everything into my racing and my preparation and I was exhausted on some of those weekends just because I want to get 100 percent out of it. I don’t want to leave anything on the table with as many people and at least for my process it was certainly a lot. I definitely wouldn’t want it to be a distraction, but I also wouldn’t want to not maximize an opportunity and really good car, so I would say I’m probably 50/50 on that and probably on the lower end of guys who would want more track time, but, otherwise, it’s kind of whatever you’re prioritizing at the moment.”

OVER THESE LAST TWO YEARS HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU THOUGHT BACK TO YOUR DAYTONA 500 WIN AND TO FINALLY GET BACK TO A CELEBRATION LIKE THAT THIS PAST WEEKEND? “Yeah, definitely meaningful. Obviously, a very different type of celebration, not necessarily – get the races out of the picture, just kind of the timing in my career very early on in the Cup Series. I think both wins I wouldn’t say came as a surprise, but I definitely wasn’t the favorite going into the race by any means for either of them. I think what makes this past weekend special is just in a lot of ways I feel like with the group of guys that I’m with and the team that I’m with it’s kind of a different experience in general. One of the coolest things about winning the Daytona 500 was a lot of my guys on the team, on the 2 car at that time, had been trying to win that race for decades and to be able to deliver that to those guys and to see that kind of joy. And then on the flip side this weekend there were a lot of guys on my car that that was their first-ever Cup Series win, and to be able to deliver that and I know I’m referencing in relation to how other people are experiencing it, but it is what makes this special for me. I said it after Daytona and I’ll say it again, I know what winning means for me. I know the excitement, the relief, the satisfaction that comes with that for me, Austin Cindric. But to kind of see what it means for other people that I get to see often, but never get to see that excited often is pretty special for me.”

IT SPEAKS TO HOW HARD IT IS TO WIN IN NASCAR, SO IT PROBABLY MAKES YOU APPRECIATE IT EVEN MORE. “Absolutely. It’s definitely worth soaking up every moment.”

CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT WHAT IT’S FELT LIKE OR WHAT STANDS OUT ABOUT THINGS PEOPLE HAVE SAID OR HOW YOU’VE FELT SUPPORT THE LAST COUPLE OF SEASONS? “I certainly spend a lot of time at the race shop, so the shop-based guys are pretty used to seeing me, whether it’s just walking through the facility going to the gym every day or obviously being around the car and being around the team. It’s definitely a community of people that put a lot of work in and obviously don’t get to see the other side at the racetrack, but it’s just appreciated. I don’t expect anyone to be excited or happy about a poor performance or anything like that. I don’t think anyone is, but the support that I’ve received from the team, from top to bottom throughout this stretch of 85 races if you want to call it has been unwavering. I’ve always been a person that says other people’s opinions don’t matter, but the people that are putting in the hard work and that are part of my team, those are the only opinions to me that matter and to have that support even through the tough times shows the type of character of the people that work here and to have that belief in me is awesome. It’s appreciated and it doesn’t go unnoticed by me and it’s definitely a motivator.”

WALT SAID AFTER THE RACE THAT THROUGH ALL OF THIS YOU HAVEN’T LOST YOUR PASSION FOR RACING. FOR YOU, WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE THESE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS LEARNING TO RACE AT THE CUP LEVEL AND GO THROUGH THESE UPS AND DOWNS WITHOUT LOSING THAT FIRE? “That’s exactly what it is, it’s growth. You’re trying to find the next level yourself. You move up from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series and you see it in other professional sports. I watch a lot of football and you see it with college players going into the NFL. That performance can or cannot translate depending on how you adapt, and the Cup Series field is extremely talented and to be able to separate yourself in today’s day and age is more of a challenge probably than ever in some ways, but otherwise I want to be on that level. I want that challenge. I don’t want to just be satisfied with what I’ve done. How do you take advantage of the opportunity that you have because that’s all it really comes down to, so whether if that’s defining my process throughout the week or with my guys or what I look at or what’s important or how do I utilize my teammates as resources – all of the things that make Cup Series racing different than what I’ve done in the Xfinity and Truck Series, and any other type of racing that I’ve done, how do I adapt to that with the things that I’m not necessarily comfortable with because I think you have to find yourself uncomfortable. You have to have difficult conversations with the people that matter. If you’re just reinventing the wheel to reinvent the wheel because you don’t feel good about how things are going, you’ve got to do everything with a purpose and I feel like I’ve turned over a lot of stones to get to where we’re seeing some progress with me and my group. That’s what it takes, I think.”

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DO YOU LEARN BEING IN THE BROADCAST BOOTH THAT YOU AREN’T LEARNING ON THE TRACK, AND WHO HAD THE IDEA FOR THE BOW TIE? “As far as the broadcast booth side, I certainly enjoy it. I would say being in the booth has definitely been my favorite role that I’ve been assigned. I’ve done pit road and done the studio and I’ve done the booth and the booth is definitely the most fun because it’s live sports. That’s how you have to consume sports is live. That’s half the reason why I feel like we have live television is because of live sports, and to be part of that live action and talk about things as they’re happening is a lot of fun and I really enjoy that, and I enjoy watching that. So, that part for me has been fun. I’ve watched a lot of races from the spotter’s stand and I would say that’s a pretty similar experience for me as far as what I can see, so I do find that very valuable, and as far as the bow tie, I have always not cared about being a little bit different, but I probably got a bow tie before this, but it definitely solidified the deal when I was in band class I played the tuba and a regular tie was gonna get in the way of playing all the notes and picking the thing up and down and not pulling on your neck, so I wore a bow tie and have worn one ever since. That’s pretty much all I’ve ever owned. It’s funny because it’s just enough out of the norm that literally everybody picks up on it and asks me about it and it’s definitely become a thing, so I guess it’s fun to do something a little different.”

YOU TALKED SUNDAY ABOUT HOW IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE TOP 10 AT TEAM PENSKE. HOW DO YOU PREVENT THAT FROM BEING DISRUPTIVE? “I think it depends on the day whether it’s breaking me down or not, but it’s how do you react and adapt to adversity. I think that’s what really high performance is all about, whether adversity is really low – someone’s adversity could be at my high and trying to define that and move that bar up, I think, is what it’s all about. I feel like I’ve been a pretty mentally strong person. I’ve had to learn a lot in a short amount of time in a lot of different situations in race cars. I’ve worked with a ton of different people. I feel like I’m a pretty adaptable person in a lot of ways, but it’s what it takes. Past that, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of how to do it. Everybody’s experiences are different, but how bad do you want it? That’s really what it all boils down to and how important is it to you? I think I alluded to on Sunday that this is by far the most important thing that I have going on and it’s how I want it.”

IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE YOU’VE GONE A YEAR WITHOUT WINNING, SO WHAT IS THE ADJUSTMENT IN TERMS OF NOT WINNING AND EITHER RESETTING GOALS OR UNDERSTANDING WHERE YOU ARE AND LOOKING AT IT THAT WAY? “I think you bring up a great point that made 2023 pretty difficult for me is just numbers on the board. To your point, that is the first year since 2011 that I haven’t won a race. That’s a long time. That’s a really long time and whether if it’s just one or two a year or multiple or whatever it is, I commish art work every year to send out to all of my supporters, family, friends, it’s kind of a collage of all the race cars I drove. I started it back in 2015 when I was racing in IMSA and Rallycross and stock cars and to kind of just illustrate, literally, the different experiences I got to do throughout the year. Usually, the centerpiece of this artwork is the most prominent race win I have, and last year I called my guy, Steve, and I’m like, ‘Dude, I don’t even know what to do. This is a tradition. Everybody expects this every year and I want to do this, and I want to have these to line them up throughout my career, but I don’t even know what to put in the center of this.’ I did the Bristol Dirt Race because it was different and it was going away, so we put a dirt NASCAR Cup car because that’s as weird as last year felt for me and that’s just what we did because I ran well in the heat race. That’s all I’ve got. From a goal-setting standpoint, look, I didn’t expect to get into the Cup Series and go out here and win a ton of races right away against some guys that have been doing this for over a decade. I’m definitely a realistic person, but I definitely expect myself and the level in which I prepare for these races, I would say the hardest thing over the last handful of years for me to do, and a lot of it is a weekly self-check for me because there is a different way to prepare for a race, to prepare if you’re gonna run from 10th to 25th versus 10th to first, whether if that’s studying restarts, how different drivers driver, what decisions to make in traffic. Those are the types of things that my preparation has had to be a much wider spectrum of preparation because the racing is so different throughout the Cup Series field. This past weekend, there were cars that raced that race that I never saw the entire weekend. Usually, I see the entire field at some point or the other, and it’s been difficult for me going into race weekends to convince myself that I need to prepare to watch every single restart of how to win every single restart in every scenario, the same way that I would going into every single Xfinity Series race going into the race knowing that, you know what, there’s a chance I’m not gonna be racing for the win here, but I need to be ready for that opportunity. There are weeks where you’re finishing 25th three weeks in a row where it’s hard to sit here and realistically think you’ll just go in there and need to use this information, but some of it is just about not being lazy and that’s how you have to challenge yourself because it’s kind of depressing watching some of those things thinking that you’re not gonna have to use it, but it’s necessary and that’s the mindset that I’ve forced myself to have is to be prepared for those moments and this weekend is honestly proof of that process for not just me, but my team. That’s what I feel like I project onto my race team is to be prepared for that, know that we have that opportunity and it’s good to be surrounded by, whether if that’s two championship teams right next door to our setup plate or even IndyCar program or an IMSA program. We have enough greatness surrounding us to know that we have all those ingredients. Obviously, it hasn’t been the best year for our Cup program as a whole, but you have to be ready for those opportunities and do what is necessary to take advantage of that.”

AS YOU TALK ABOUT STUDYING RESTARTS AND DIFFERENT THINGS IS IT AS MUCH ABOUT JUST BEING AROUND TEAM PENSKE AS LONG AS YOU HAVE BEEN THAT YOU ARE SORT OF A RACING VERSION OF A GYM RAT? “I certainly think that my expectation for myself and the people around me, the people that I work with, is absolutely that. I ask a lot of the people that I work with and I ask a lot of myself, and I do feel like I don’t know anything different when it comes to performance and how to get the most out of every opportunity other than what I know, and what I know is what happens at Team Penske. There’s no other way around it, really. I don’t have any exposure to anything else. That mentality has helped me in other forms or racing outside of racing for Team Penske, but it is absolutely the mentality and the culture that flows through the shop. From that perspective, yes, absolutely, there’s no way I could disagree with you, but at the same time, everyone has bad days but I definitely don’t want to define myself as a 25th-place driver as I talk about all this because I know that’s what I’m not, and I know I bring a lot more to the table with that, but those weeks are definitely the toughest because I know that with what I do and what we do as a team, so it’s difficult to try and overcome that some days.”

HAVE YOU SEEN THE PICTURES OF THE REPAVE OF THREE AND FOUR IN IOWA, AND HOW WILL THAT CHANGE THE RACING? “I actually haven’t seen the photos of the repave in Iowa. I know they were going to pave over the patchwork in three and four that’s been there for a little while, so obviously new pavement is gonna add grip and you’re gonna have to run through it. I think it all just kind of depends on how wide it is. Even at North Wilkesboro that’s an extreme example with an extremely old surface. You would put your tire literally on the freshest piece of asphalt and that would be the racing line no matter what track shape or geometry would tell you is the correct racing line. It’s where the grip is, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a favored spot on the racetrack just because of that, but, otherwise, I think we’re all really excited about going to Iowa.”

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