By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Austin Cindric endured a long and winding day in Saturday’s Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and that may be an understatement.
Cindric scratched, clawed, and persevered through multiple setbacks all afternoon, including tire management and not letting the heat get in his way. Despite those adversities, he brought his loose No. 22 PPG Ford Mustang home in ninth.
“It wasn’t the cleanest day by any means,” said Cindric. “I’m proud to come home with a top 10. That’s probably about the only positive.”
His day started subpar, running outside the top-10 in Stage 1, and became the theme of his race and on Lap 66, he slid down to the apron before going for a spun at the end of Turn 1.
Fortunately, Cindric came into the pits without damage. Once he restarted in 23rd on Lap 70, he was unleashed and had his strongest run of the race.
In just seven laps, he worked his way into the top-10, including a three-wide pass on the backstretch to get by Jeb Burton and Michael Annett to move up to ninth. As the stage wind down, he passed Ryan Sieg for eighth and took advantage of two wounded Joe Gibbs Racing entries of Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones, and crossed the line in sixth to wrap up the stage.
They had flat tires, with Bell falling out of the race while Jones continued to finish 10th. As for Cindric, the final stage was agonizing as he was out of the top-10 until several late race cautions bunched the field up multiple times.
His Team Penske crew kept adjusting the car and tried a different pit strategy such as going for fuel only. It eventually got him out of the Charlotte scorcher with his ninth top-10 of the season.
While the man sitting fourth in points extended his top-10 streak to five, Cindric thought he patched up last year’s shortcomings, but the conditions threw a wrench on those plans.
“I thought I learned the right lessons from last year,” said Cindric. “I guess I didn’t prepare enough for conditions being different or whatever.”
Perhaps intriguing on Cindric’s turnaround was competing with other drivers that had an additional set of tires, as he had one less due to the Turn 1 spin. As a result, he saw it as a positive outlook after having a long hard afternoon at the 1.5-mile circuit.
“I’m proud to come home P9 with the PPG Ford Mustang with one less set of tires than everybody,” Cindric explained. “We’ve got a hard-working team and I’m very thankful for that. This is the first time we’ve had a day like this, so that’s kind of a positive, but, overall, looking forward to getting to Pocono and having a clean run.”
Several drivers battled with heat exhaustion, including Austin Dillon and Jeffery Earnhardt, Cindric said it wasn’t the hottest conditions he’s ever raced and explained how he was able to get out of his car without the body taking its toll.
“Hydrating a lot, working out a lot. I don’t have much fat to burn, so I’ve got to get myself some water to burn,” Cindric on staying fit under warm conditions. “All in all, you can’t be mad at the result, but it’s frustrating when the mile-and-a-halves seem to be our weak point, but at least we can recognize it this early in the season and go to work.”