By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Austin Cindric is prepared for the true test of this season’s NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign, beginning in this weekend’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Now in his third full season, the 21-year-old is more aware on what’s considered normal on any given race weekend.
Despite saying that area is where he’s improved the most, Cindric believes it’s the most demanding aspect a race car driver can thrive to improve on.
“It’s a hard challenge to describe because what was normal for me is so foreign to what makes a race weekend what your priorities are – how do you get the most out of the car? Where does getting the most out of the car matter?
“And where is your head at supposed to be for race day, so that’s somewhere I’m pretty comfortable with on both sides of the spectrum, whether I’m racing a sport car somewhere or racing a stock car. So I feel pretty confident about that and feel pretty confident that that disadvantage has become an asset for me, so I think that’s where my strengths have come in and I think this year it’s about racing the race tracks and execution for our team.”
With only one practice session and weather for Saturday’s 200-lap race being less ideal, Cindric understands the main priority is making sure his No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang is up to speed straight away.
“I think for us the biggest change in practice for this year is that we only get one set of tires and we have only one practice session,” Cindric said during media availability prior to Friday’s practice. “For us, it definitely prioritizes things to make sure we’re getting base hits and making sure we’re at least close enough. Obviously, if the rain comes, I think we have enough adjustability in the car to be able to make the necessary changes.”
Compared to the hot triple digit temperatures last September, it’s a massive contrast in February as temperatures are cut down in half. This will mean car speed increases and track position becoming essential under much cooler temperatures, something Cindric noted that it’ll definitely play a tremendous role this weekend.
“The spring race is definitely more of a track position race because it is a lot faster, it’s harder to follow,” Cindric said. “When we were here in the fall it was over 100-degree temperatures and right now it’s 50 degrees or whatever, so that temperature swing is a massive speed difference, so making sure the balance of the car is good for those loads, but I’m excited.
“It’s a fun race. I don’t think we’re gonna move around quite as much as what we saw in the fall race, but I still think we’ll work our way up.”
If rain were to summon the 1.5-mile circuit, Cindric isn’t too concerned as he’ll be ready for a superb run. Where not only he’ll look to improve on his personal best ninth from Fall 2018, but put Daytona behind after being collected in a late-race crash that saw him finishing 25th.
“I’ve been waiting for this weekend for a while,” Cindric said. “It’s a great track. It’s a great weekend. The fans really love this place. There is obviously a lot to do in Las Vegas, but I’m really excited to put on a good show and really kick off our year.
“I was really proud of the performance we had last fall in Las Vegas. We has about everything go wrong in that race, but we showed a lot of speed and a lot of promise with a brand new package, so we’ve improved upon that package since then and improved our cars over the offseason, so has everyone else, but we get to see where everything stands here on the west coast swing.”
Cindric is currently 16th in points, looking to leave “Sin City” with his first oval win as all three of his national touring wins (two in NXS last year) have come on road courses.