Austin Cindric remains confident about playoff hopes despite Michigan loss

Nigel Kinrade/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Austin Cindric didn’t get the victory he needed to keep his playoff hopes alive at Michigan International Speedway, but after scoring his third top five of the season the Brad Keselowski Racing shoe is confident he can still win his way into the postseason field.

In fact, he thinks it could happen in just four days – when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway.

“We know Bristol’s a strong track for us, so we’ve just got to keep on the role we’re on right now,” Cindric told Kickin’ the Tires. “We’ve finished top 10 in the last five races, and we’re one of the ones competing at the front. I think if we can just keep on that path we’ll have a win by Chicago.”

Cindric had his strongest weekend to date in Michigan, parlaying pit strategy and a strong No. 19 Ford into winning contention with the laps winding down in Saturday’s LTi Printing 200. The rookie took the lead on Lap 66 and went on to hold the top spot for 24 circuits, fending off a litany of challenges from Christopher Bell as the laps wound down.

In the end Cindric’s shot at victory was undone not by Bell, but Darrell Wallace Jr. Cindric appeared poised to hold the top spot again amid another challenge by Bell on Lap 90 when Wallace took the duo three-wide, surging into the race lead.

Out of the clean air, Cindric slowly slid back over the final 10 circuits, crossing the line fifth when the checkered flag flew. The lone Ford driver in contention admitted afterward that he knew the lead would be difficult to hold without help.

“I felt like a sitting duck after I heard the (No.) 51 (Kyle Busch) was behind the (No.) 4 (Bell), just because teammates are key,” Cindric said. “Obviously they didn’t end up winning the race. I think they (Bell and Busch) could have at least helped me by (Wallace) and then sorted me out later.

“But it was one of those deals where I was doing the best I could. Obviously I knew those guys were trying to push me away from the field and then take me on like they did. I felt like we hung on our own and had a lot of fun.”

Given his position in the standings, Cindric stood to gain the most of the lead group with a victory. The Columbus, Ohio native sits 10th in the championship standings, 65 points out of a playoff position with just three races remaining before the championship battle begins. He’ll likely need to win one of the last three races at Bristol, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Chicagoland Speedway if he hopes to make the playoffs and contend for a championship.

Despite that, Cindric took a few positives away from his run.

“That’s the first time I’ve led a big pack at the speedway,” Cindric said. “There’s a lot going in. I credit a lot of that help to (spotter) Joey Meier. He’s one of the best when it comes to superspeedway racing, and he was also keeping me in tow with what’s going on behind me and what I need to do there. I’m excited for the rest of the year.”

The run was also Cindric’s fifth-straight top 10, a mark he believes in proof enough of the No. 19 team’s strength.

“I think we proved what I’ve been talking about all week,” Cindric said. “This (No.) 19 team’s on the rise. This is our fifth top 10 in a row, third top five of the season. We’re battling for wins. This is where we’re supposed to be. This is where I know we can be. This is where we should be.”

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