By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
ELKHART LAKE, Wisc.— Austin Cindric put his No. 22 Team Penske Ford at the front of the field at Lap 13 in Saturday afternoon’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America. But that lead was short-lived, as smoke billowed from the rear of his machine shortly thereafter and his car stalled on the track to bring out the fourth caution of the race.
Cindric’s No. 22 Ford would have to be pushed back to the garage, ending his day with a 37th-place result. While it was the fifth DNF of the season for the 19-year-old, he maintained an upbeat attitude after climbing from his car at the historic 4.048-mile road course.
“Yeah, I just blew up. At least we blew up in the lead,” Cindric said with a grin.
“We had a really fast car and it’s unfortunate. Obviously we’ve got to look back and see what happened. It wasn’t a missed shift in the race. There was a lot of debris on the track and a lot of carnage, so maybe we got some debris caught up in the car.
“It’s unfortunate because these guys work really hard to bring really fast race cars every time.”
Cindric started at the rear of the field after changing tires post-qualifying, but he quickly worked his way toward the front during the 10 laps of Stage 1. Under the caution for the stage break, the call was made to stay out on the track and as a result, Cindric restarted second behind Brendan Gaughan. Cindric quickly took the lead before losing it to Daniel Hemric just two laps later and falling victim to the engine woes.
“It just wasn’t meant to be today so we’ll go on and watch the race and have a little fun here at one of the best tracks in the U.S.”
The finish was all the more disappointing as there were lots of people on hand from Wisconsin-based sponsor Menards. Cindric also had Cup-level expertise available from the spotter’s stand as Ryan Blaney served as an extra set of eyes and ears to navigate the 14-turn road course.
“Cool to have Bleney in my ear for today, hope to repay the favor one day,” Cindric tweeted after the race.