By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
For the first time in Austin Cindric’s superspeedway career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he finished on the lead lap and inside the top-five. In the quiet, ‘follow the leader’ train at Daytona International Speedway, Cindric held his ground, patiently waiting for an opportunity that never came.
During the final green flag run to the finish in the NASCAR Racing Experience 300, Cindric found his No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang fifth in line. As the entire field ran in line along the outside wall, a recurring theme throughout the 2019 Speedweeks, he waited for a second line to form. While others leap-frogged to gain positions, the Team Penske driver remained in line. With the inside line failing to form, he took the checkered flag in fifth.
“I was able to generate runs a few times, but it was really difficult because there were some really strong cars leading the front pack and I don’t think we had enough strong cars from 10th to fifth to really make something happened.” Cindric explained. “I think we lost the 10 a little too early and could have made a run to go to the lead. I will take a top-five out of this deal.”
With the majority of the race being run single-file, Cindric found himself battling for position at the end of the stages. In the first stage, he finished 10th. Meanwhile in the second stage, a push from Cindric put Ross Chastain into the lead to win the second stage. Cindric ended the stage in third.
“You expect overtime at the end but like I said, with the cars that you would expect to be up front that weren’t up front at the end, you didn’t have enough help to generate anxious runs,” Cindric continued. “I feel like we were aggressive at the right times and conservative at the right times and it paid dividends.”
“This is Daytona, and this is cool, and I am happy to have a good run for the MoneyLion guys the first time out. We got stage points in each stage which is a good way to start the year.”
Cindric’s fifth-place finish marked the first time at a superspeedway in the Xfinity Series that was not involved in an incident. In all three superspeedway races last year, he was involved in accidents. In fact, at Daytona, this is the first NASCAR race that Cindric has finished after wrecking early in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series two years ago, and the Xfinity race last year.
The fifth-place finish was the eighth top-five finish in Cindric’s career. It leaves him fourth in championship points standings, eight points behind points leader Brandon Jones.