By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Cutting it Close
Cindric had two right front tires fail during the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. As a result, the driver of the No. 2 Freightliner Ford Mustang was in the back of the pack throughout the night. For much of the race Cindric was on the outside, looking in for the cutline for the Round of 12. He wasn’t kept up to date until the final Stage.
At the start of the final Stage, he was 16-points out. 25 laps later that margin to Kyle Busch dwindled to just a handful of points. By the 100 to go mark, Cindric was tied with Busch. Further attrition allowed the Team Penske driver to gain another two points with a 20th-place finish, moving him into 12th on the Playoff Grid.
“Not until there was this chance (of making the Round of 12),” admitted Cindric. “I got told the beginning Stage 3, how close it was or how close it wasn’t. It’s probably about 16 (points) out being in Stage 3 and then we were five out, four out, tied with the 18 and that wave around really helped me be able to conserve my car, get a lap ahead of the 77 and the 43.”
A product of being in the back throughout the night was that Cindric had to avoid the mayhem. He was one of 11 cars caught in a 12-car melee on a restart on lap 278. Just prior to that he was behind Busch as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s engine failed. In both Cindric avoided the mayhem.
“(Kyle Busch’s engine failure) happened right in front of me,” stated Cindric. “He had smoke coming out, stopped on the straightaway about, ran in the back of him. I was front row seat for just about everything tonight. I guess that’s what happens when you’re in the back. Just fortunate we didn’t have really any mechanical issues, just the right front tires.”
All three of the Team Penske cars had issues at Bristol. Ryan Blaney cut a tire early, broke a right rear toe-link, and then was forced to frantically drive to make minimum speed before repairs could be made. Joey Logano blew a tire late and then had a further suspension failure, giving Cindric one of the two crucial spots to continue in the NASCAR Playoffs. Despite the issues, all three of the Roger Penske-owned cars advanced to the Round of 12.
“Just a perfect storm in some ways,” said Cindric. “Bristol showed us little mercy tonight. Not a very impressive night for Team Penske, so I’m just glad all three of us made it through the next round. Certainly, a tense evening. I’m ready (for a reset).”
Round of 16 Reflections
Cindric’s best finish in the Round of 12 was a 12th-place finish at Kansas Speedway. Though that was the best finish for the Mooresville, N.C. native, he felt like his best performance in the Round of 16 was at Darlington Raceway. There Cindric finished 16th, among those that avoided trouble.
“This round, I feel like in the first race, we had good performance and not great execution in the second,” explained Cindric. “There are points in the night that I thought I was about as good as anybody but then I kept blowing right fronts and then I wasn’t so good. Just how it goes.”
Following the reseeding for the Round of 12, the Daytona 500 winner finds himself 12th on the Playoff Grid. Cindric is 34-points behind leader Chase Elliott and seven below the cutline, currently held by Blaney.
Next for the 24-year-old is the Autotrader Echo Park Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 25 on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio channel 90.