By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric will look to make his Cup Series debut in the 63rd Daytona 500, driving the No. 33 Team Penske Ford Mustang.
The team confirmed Wednesday morning that the 22-year-old will be one of four rookies (Kaz Grala, Noah Gragson and Chad Finchum being the others) who must qualify for “The Great American Race.”
Cindric, who’ll be driving for Wood Brothers Racing full-time in 2022, said while being an open car makes it tough on his chances of making the 40-car grid, there’s joy of getting an opportunity to run in the sport’s highest level.
“There is a lot to be excited about heading into Daytona,” said Cindric. “It doesn’t really even need to be said that the Daytona 500 is the biggest crown jewel race in NASCAR and one of the biggest races in the world – so to have a shot to be in the show while driving for Roger Penske is a big opportunity. Qualifying our way into the race as an ‘open’ car will be a big challenge.”
Calling the shots for Cindric will be Ryan Blaney’s current race engineer Miles Stanley, who’ll be entering his ninth season with Team Penske and the fourth with Blaney.
No stranger to success, Stanley was the engineer of Penske’s lone Daytona 500 triumph in 2015 when Joey Logano brought home the Harley J. Earl Trophy.
Stanley said having the chance of being on top of the pit box once again showcases his growth as the team felt confident of helping Cindric have a smoother experience.
“Ever since I joined Team Penske in 2013, I’ve been able to grow as an engineer and learn from some of the best in the business,” said Stanley. “Now I get the chance to become a Cup Series crew chief with one of the formidable organizations in the sport, which is an amazing opportunity. To get to do it with Austin at Daytona International Speedway is a perfect recipe for success.
“I look forward to working with him and hitting the ground running with the No. 33 Ford team in Daytona and the other Cup Series races that Austin runs in 2021.”
Additional races for Cindric’s No. 33 Mustang will be announced at a later time. In the meantime, the focus for Cindric is preparing for the 500 with Miles, but also deliver back-to-back NXS championships.
Last season, Cindric won six races and finished in the top-five 19 times en route to his first NASCAR title.