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Team Penske 2023 NASCAR Season Review - Austin Cindric
December 28, 2023

Highs and lows are a natural part of competing at the top level of motorsports and Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang, experienced both peaks and valleys over his first two seasons racing in the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS). Cindric entered his sophomore season in 2023 fresh off a fierce rookie campaign that included a triumph in the DAYTONA 500, winning his first NCS pole, a playoff run and capturing Rookie of the Year honors. After that whirlwind start to his Cup Series career, Cindric and the No. 2 Ford team faced some challenges in their second season together competing in NASCAR’s premier series.

Cindric returned to the World Center of Racing in February eager to replicate his historic 2022 victory in the “Great American Race.” Firing off from a sixth-place position, Cindric and the No. 2 team proved to be strong once again, running just outside the top five with three laps left in the race before a late-race incident relegated the Discount Tire Ford Mustang to a 23rd-place finish.

Cindric secured six top-10 starting positions over the first eight races of the 2023 season, narrowly missing the pole position in the fifth race of the year at Atlanta Motor Speedway by six one-thousandths of a second. It was a qualifying session that was dominated by Team Penske and Ford as the team swept the top three starting positions, leading the eight Blue Oval cars that qualified in the top 10. Cindric, a native of Ohio, was primed for a strong result at Atlanta, as he won Stage 2 of the event and challenged for the win in the final stage before crossing the finish line in 11th place.

NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season in 2023 also brought the return of the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway to the NCS schedule, along with the addition of NASCAR’s first-ever street race, which saw the high-powered Cup Series machines blazing through the streets of downtown Chicago. The event summoned the largest Cup Series television audience since 2017.

Cindric, an undeniable force on road courses, was a vocal advocate for the new addition to the Cup Series schedule. “It’s a long time coming,” Cindric told reporters at Nashville Superspeedway in June. “The atmosphere around a street-course race is pretty hard to describe. Think about wherever you live, there’s now race cars driving past where you live. It’s cool that we’re doing it.”

Record rainfall unfortunately plagued the Chicago race weekend, delaying the start of the inaugural race. Despite the treacherous conditions coupled with a less-than-ideal starting position after an incident in practice, Cindric utilized his road-racing skills to methodically work his way forward to claim a sixth-place finish on the downtown streets.

The result marked the third top-10 finish for the No. 2 Ford team over the first half of the season, following sixth-place results at Las Vegas and at Circuit of the Americas. After the regular season concluded at Daytona International Speedway in August, a change of leadership was made on the No. 2 team. Cindric and Harrison Burton, driver of the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing – Team Penske’s technical alliance partner team – swapped crew chiefs in an effort to boost performance for both teams through the final 10 races and in preparation for the 2024 season.

The change brought a familiar face back to the top of Cindric’s pit box as Brian Wilson reunited with the Team Penske racer. Wilson’s return rekindled a relationship that produced 13 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) wins and the 2020 NXS championship. Over the span of the remaining 10 races in 2023, the Cindric/Wilson pairing recorded two top-10 finishes and one top-five result – a fifth-place effort at Talladega Superspeedway.

The strong close to 2023 resulted in Cindric and No. 2 Ford Mustang team finishing 24th in the season standings. While it wasn’t the season Cindric and the team hoped for in the driver’s second year racing Team Penske’s flagship No. 2 Ford, the team’s drive, determination and commitment winning never wavered. The encouraging finish to the season also has Cindric excited about what the future holds for 2024.

“There’s nowhere to hide in the Cup Series, it’s the absolute best of the best,” said Cindric. “Sometimes when things don’t go your way, it can be very discouraging. But we’ve got a lot to look forward to and I think we’re building a lot of good things on the No. 2 car in preparation for next year to start a strong 2024 campaign.”

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