Ford Performance NASCAR: Austin Cindric Pole Winner Press Conference


1st – Austin Cindric

6th – Ryan Blaney

7th – Joey Logano

9th – Brad Keselowski

20th – Chris Buescher

21st – Cole Custer

22nd – Harrison Burton

23rd – Michael McDowell

24th – Chase Briscoe

26th – Todd Gilliland

27th – Cody Ware

29th – Garrett Smithley

30th – BJ McLeod

31st – Aric Almirola

32nd – Kevin Harvick


AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang — “I would say the last time I approached a qualifying session having to talk myself into my own lap as much as I had to today was back when I raced USF 200 in 2013 or 2014 and went to IRP the night before the 500. I know that is probably gibberish to the entire NASCAR fan base but that is what today reminded me of. There is so much learning and so much going on and it is all happening really fast. As a driver, you can’t be distracted by the crashes or mistakes or the short amount of time. I had all the data I needed today to learn what I needed to do and go apply it. It is fun to be able to go do that. Like Erik (Jones) was saying, it is easy for me to be happy about it but there are a lot of guys that had pretty rough days and put some teams in some rough spots for the west coast swing. It was pretty awesome. Pretty dramatic. I thought my lap wasn’t going to stand. I thought my one and two was money but my three and four were a bit conservative mostly because my one and two was money. I didn’t talk myself into going deep like I wanted to in three. Anyway, just an awesome couple of days and an awesome way to start things out but I don’t think it guarantees anything for the race but is certainly a lot of fun to be able to go through that.”


DO PEOPLE VIEW THE SPINS AS MISTAKES? “I do. If I spun and hit the wall I would view it as a mistake on my part, not somebody else’s fault. I am the one driving the car. That doesn’t mean it is easy by any means. There are a lot of things that are new, and when you have a lot of things new, especially in race cars you are trained by muscle memory in a lot of ways to key off different things. I am not saying I am doing anything better than anybody else but you key off different things with different race cars when you get loose or have a moment or when things are right or wrong. With such a condensed schedule on such a challenging dynamic race track I think it makes perfect sense to me why today was a challenge for sure. I think if you put this race in the middle of the summer when we have had four months to figure out the cars and make things easier and more refined, I think today would have probably been a lot easier for a lot of teams. That isn’t how the schedule laid out and this track is as tough as it is talked about.”


IS IT GOOD THAT THE CARS ARE THIS HARD TO DRIVE? “I am not sure that is for me to decide. I think they are enjoyable to a certain extent. The hard-to-drive part is different than in years past when you go to Darlington or Fontana or Atlanta in the past it was hard to drive but controllable. I think with this car you don’t have as much sidewall deflection and you don’t have the side force. You’re hard to drive is defined by different things. I am not going to sit here and tell you that I know what all those things are. YOu have to be somewhat conservative in some areas and somewhat aggressive in other areas. I was having to talk myself into my lap because I wasn’t aggressive enough in a lot of areas. I think the learning process is different for every driver and every team. You key off different things and there is a lot that is different right now.”


DID YOU THINK YOUR FIRST FULL-TIME CUP SEASON WOULD START OFF LIKE IT HAS? “Probably not but I certainly knew it was possible. I have the race team behind me to do it and it is certainly my job to be able to do it. Expectation wise, probably not. You kind of measure that and continue forward. I still feel like my mentality for tomorrow is the same as it was when I walked in the joint today. Maybe add on the things I learned today but there is a long race ahead. A lot of tire fall-off. I don’t know if I have a good long-run car or good short-run car. I had eight minutes of practice today. Usually, when we come here you know if you have a good long-run car or short-run car and you know those things. I don’t even think we know what fuel mileage looks like for tomorrow. There is a lot that we don’t know right now. I know I am on the pole and I know we have a fast car for some certain point in the run and I learned a lot and had fun today. I love qualifying. I missed qualifying the last couple of years. I always loved it when you show up and your fastest lap of the weekend was the first thing you would do in the morning when you showed up to the race track. I love that pressure. It was something I wasn’t very good at early in my career and have put a lot of emphasis on and I enjoy it. It is fun when it works out for sure.”


DO YOU THINK THIS WILL COME DOWN TO WHO CAN LEARN THIS NEW CAR THE QUICKEST? “For the next four months, I 100-percent agree with that. It is about who is the best learners. That isn’t just the drivers, it is the crew chiefs and the teams and the manufacturers. The OEM influence with this new car is more than we have ever seen. I think all those things are huge and for the next three or four months, absolutely. I think the west coast swing is a great opportunity for us to gauge where everything is and where our strengths and weaknesses are for a lot of reasons. I give a perfect example of change being an opportunity. Dave Elenz, it is his second weekend as a Cup crew chief and he qualified on the front row. He is someone that has been able to win championships in Xfinity and constantly runs up front but he is a rookie crew chief in Cup and just put his car on the front row. That is the opportunity with change. At the same time, the same opportunity could be a bad thing. I think it is way too early and you have way too few data points to make any conjectures. From that standpoint, you have to keep focusing on the things you have learned and how to apply them as quickly as possible.”


WHAT WERE YOU SAYING TO YOURSELF TO TALK YOURSELF INTO YOUR LAPS? “Just different driving things. Watching the race broadcast and watching the SMT, different driving characteristics. I took my time to get up to speed in practice today and my lap in qualifying was a second and a half faster than I went in practice. That is a lot. It is one of those things that you have to talk yourself into it and know that the car is capable of it and give yourself enough reasons why you think that is the case.”


DOES THIS NEXT GEN CAR DRIVE LIKE ANYTHING YOU HAVE EVER RACED IN YOUR CAREER? “Today I had flashbacks of driving a F2000 car at IRP. As stupid and crazy as that sounds, I would say mentality wise that is something that I could relate it to. Otherwise, I think just the ability to be open-minded will be really important for quite awhile here. Otherwise, no, this is still in my opinion very much a stock car, very much a NASCAR and there is not much else that relates to it from a driving or setup standpoint. It is its own beast like we as a sport always have been.”


WHEN DID IT SETTLE IN THAT YOU WERE THE DAYTONA 500 CHAMPION? “I smile every time someone says that. I don’t think it has yet, honestly. I think the moments that have put it in perspective for me are when you get to see your pit crew guys, your guys jumping over the wall at the end of the race. That footage for me – I know what winning the Daytona 500 means for Austin Cindric. I know the hard work I have put in. I know what that has meant to my career but I don’t know what it means to everybody else. To see those emotions, that is the humbling part for me and the part for me that shows me the gravity of that event and that success and achievement. You go back to the shop and hang out with the guys that were two or three decades ago showing up to speedweeks with Rusty Wallace and trying to do the same thing and what it means to those guys and to know I had a role in that is pretty special. It is definitely back to reality this week in my head but I smile every time I hear it and it is something you can’t take away.”


YOU WIN THE DAYTONA 500 AND YOU GO HOME, IS IT TRUE THAT YOU WERE MET WITH A JURY DUTY SUMMONS? “Am I allowed to talk about that? Is that a thing? Am I going to be put in jail if I talk about that? Yeah, I showed up on Monday and took out the trash, walked to the mailbox and have jury duty. How do I deal with that? Yeah, that will definitely put you back on your feet.”


WHEN IS IT? “Well, I am trying to get out of it because otherwise, I am not racing Las Vegas. Something tells me the county is used to racing people.”


WHAT WOULD YOUR OPINION BE OF GIVING THE TEAM MORE PRACTICE TIME FOR A FEW RACES TO FIGURE THIS CAR OUT? “I don’t even know if it is even a worthwhile discussion topic because I think there is a lot more that goes into it unfortunately than just from a team and driver standpoint. Yeah, obviously having more practice would certainly lessen the urgency of today’s events. But I think at the same time that from a TV value standpoint, that was some pretty good suspense for me. Watching from the garage I thought my goose was cooked. I thought Chase (Elliott) had me and I thought I didn’t drive it hard enough into three. From a TV value standpoint, it was a lot to take in. From a team and driver standpoint, yeah, I think I would have a lot more to base my race tomorrow off of than just our practice session today.”


IS THERE ANY MEMORY FROM THIS WEEK THAT REALLY STICKS OUT? “I think the coolest thing, and it will stay with me, that I received – well, I guess my dad received it but he shared it with me. He got a voicemail from AJ Foyt. I have gotten a lot of cool text messages from a lot of people and those are really meaningful but to hear AJ’s voice talking about me winning the Daytona 500 and all the things I did on that day is really, really special. That is something that I am going to try to save and put on a hard drive because that is something you can’t really describe how cool it is. I played it for Jeremy (Bullins) when I went to his office on Wednesday. I was like, ‘Hey, check this out, this is really cool.’ That is the coolest thing that happened to me all week. It was really cool to hear from him. I guess it was the 50th anniversary of him winning the race so I am pretty sure that was half the reason why he was as engaged as he was with the race but it was really cool to hear from him.”


Ford Performance PR

Speedway Digest Staff
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