By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor
Coming off a second-place run the prior weekend at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, defending Daytona 500 champion Austin Cindric was hoping to carry that momentum into this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway in what would be the rookie driver’s first Cup Series start on the two-mile oval.
Cindric qualified the No. 2 Ford in the fifth position and fell as far back as 13th in the beginning of the race before the yellow flag flew for the competition caution on lap 21.
Several drivers came to pit road under the ensuing caution period, including Cindric. The No. 2 team would lose a few spots and, since several other drivers opted not to pit under this yellow, Cindric would start outside the top 20.
This would spell the beginning of the end for the No. 2 team’s race at Michigan.
On the ensuing restart, the No. 15 of JJ Yeley would struggle to get up to speed. This caused several other cars behind him to check up and ultimately make contact. The No. 34 of Michael McDowell would get into the left rear of Cindric’s No. 2 car, causing Cindric to veer up into the outside wall and take a massive hit.
Replay: Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola and others involved in a big crash during Stage 1 in Michigan.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) August 7, 2022
The 23-year-old driver was able to get out of the car under his own power and was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
However, the No. 2 team would be done for the day, and would finish dead last on the field – 37th, to be exact.
“I don’t know what started all of it. I saw the 15 car sideways and everything stacked up,” said Cindric after being released from the care center. “I got tagged in the left-rear and shoved me up the racetrack and then got turned head-on into the fence. It looked like the 15 just got loose and backed everybody up and then got ran into the back. It’s not Ty’s fault, just everybody stacking up. Obviously, it was a complete mess. I hit the outside wall head-on. I’m glad to be OK. It’s such a waste to do all of this and finish last. It’s pretty unfortunate. I hate it for the guys on the team and for Discount Tire.”
Cindric’s position in the Playoffs is relatively secure … for now.
Kevin Harvick would go on to win Sunday’s race at Michigan, meaning only one more spot is open on points in the Playoff grid.
Cindric’s Daytona 500 victory from this past February theoretically means he should be locked in, but if two more drivers – who haven’t already won a race this year – go to Victory Lane before the regular season comes to an end at Daytona International Speedway in a few weeks … suddenly Cindric’s “guaranteed” Playoff spot doesn’t look so promising.
If you thought Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. were safe bets to make the playoffs going into the weekend, think again.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 8, 2022
If there are more than 16 different winners before the regular season comes to a close, the lowest driver in points with only one victory will no longer have a spot in the Playoffs. Other than Kurt Busch, who has missed the last three races after not clearing concussion protocol following a qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway, Cindric is lowest in points of the drivers with only one victory.
The series heads to Richmond Raceway this weekend for the Federated Auto Parts 400, where Cindric has made two prior starts. He finished 20th in the spring race earlier this year.
Coverage begins on Sunday, August 14th at 3:00PM ET on USA.
Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo