Back in February, when the green flag waved on the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) season at the “World Center of Racing” in Daytona Fla., Team Penske was poised to build on the success and the momentum from a championship-contending 2018 campaign with the No. 22 Ford Mustang team. The goal in 2019 for Team Penske’s decorated NXS program was simple – win as many races as possible, earn a spot in the Playoffs for the team’s talented full-season driver Austin Cindric and fight for the series title. The team rose to meet all of those challenges this season, overcoming some adversity and some obstacles along the way.
Over the course of 2019, Team Penske prepared race-winning cars for five different drivers, led by crew chief Brian Wilson and the full-season No. 22 Ford Mustang team, along with crew chief Matt Swiderski and the No. 12 Ford Mustang team, which raced in select events this season. Working with multiple drivers was nothing new for the Team Penske NXS program, but preparing for different driving styles and setup preferences from race to race always provides a test. Both the No. 22 and No. 12 teams made the most of their opportunities this season as the NXS program recorded a combined two victories, seven pole positions, 19 top-five finishes and 29 top-10 results in 41 starts, while fighting for the series championship.
Cindric showed promise and production in his first full NXS season racing with Team Penske and the No. 22 Ford team, led by crew chief Brian Wilson. The 21-year-old Cindric posted solid results in his 33 starts and he earned a valuable spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
For Cindric, his second NXS season was quite different from his rookie year. While he raced a full season in 2018, he competed for two different organizations and three separate teams, between Team Penske and Roush-Fenway Racing as he got his first taste of the NXS Playoffs.
The 2019 season was one of consistency for Cindric and the No. 22 team as the young driver made the most of the new full-season opportunity, working closely with Wilson.
The high point of the season came in August when the Mooresville, NC native seized impressive back-to-back road course victories for his first NXS wins. He won an exciting battle at Watkins Glen in the MoneyLion Ford and the following weekend he won from the pole in dominant fashion at Mid-Ohio, as he led 46 of 75 laps in the PPG Mustang.
Cindric produced a career-best four pole positions in the No. 22 Ford as he was the top qualifier at Kentucky, Mid-Ohio, Bristol and Richmond. Cindric enjoyed a strong start to the NXS Playoffs as he produced three consecutive top-three finishes in route to a season ending 14 top-five and 24 top-10 results. He led a total of 205 laps on the season and he finished sixth in the championship standings.
Team Penske and MoneyLion will look to build on their success together and the future remains bright for Cindric as he returns to compete in the No. 22 Ford in 2020. The talented racer looks forward to the opportunity to once again battle for the driver’s championship, as well as the team’s fifth NXS Owners title.
“It was a good season. To win races – going back-to-back – to win poles, lead laps, and be in contention, it’s been a great experience to have this year and work with the same team all year and hone in on all the little things,” said Cindric. “Hopefully it’s set us up well to have a championship year in 2020, because with the right pieces in place, I think we can be that team or at least set our eyes on the final four and hit the ground running.”
Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series champions Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both competed in two races in the No. 12 Ford Mustang this season. The No. 12 NXS driver lineup also included Paul Menard and Ryan Blaney in 2019.
The NXS season began with a couple of challenging results for Keselowski, the 2010 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champ. In the first race at Daytona, a roof hatch malfunction brought an early end to Keselowski’s race and an accident in Texas also forced the former champ out prematurely.
The No. 12 team rebounded, as driver Paul Menard captured the pole position in the LTi Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway before Menard produced a fourth-place finish in the race. In his second start of the season in the No. 12 Ford, Menard scored a fifth-place finish at Loudon. Over his two starts with the team, Menard led a total of 56 laps.
Logano, the 2018 Cup Series champion, also made two starts in the No. 12 Ford during the 2019 season. The series veteran captured the pole at Chicagoland and finished second on race day in the Snap-on Tools Mustang. The Middletown, CT native made his second start of the season at Bristol, but was forced out early in the No. 12 Ford after a backstretch accident involving four other competitors.
Blaney produced top-five finishes in his two starts racing the No. 12 Ford. He produced a fourth-place result in the Pirtek Ford on the Watkins Glen International road course before he won the pole at Darlington and secured a third-place finish for the team driving the Body Armor Mustang.
Over the course of the season, the No. 12 Ford team captured three poles and five top-five finishes while leading a total of 139 laps in just eight starts among four drivers in 2019.
After a season of growth and achievement in 2019, the stage is set for Team Penske to produce another strong title run in 2020. With Cindric set to continue his development in his third NXS season, Team Penske has a great opportunity to build on its NXS winning tradition moving forward.