The 2021 NASCAR season was one of continued achievement and new challenges for Austin Cindric. The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) Champion made a strong defense of his title with the No. 22 CarShop/Menards/PPG/5G/Snap-on Ford Mustang team. Cindric also earned the opportunity to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series with Team Penske, as he made seven solid starts with the No. 33 Verizon 5G/Pirtek/MoneyLion Ford Mustang team. The packed season schedule confirmed that Cindric is one of NASCAR’s fastest rising stars and he is ready to compete full-time in the Cup Series in 2022.
Paired with his 2020 NXS championship-winning team led by crew chief Brian Wilson, Cindric nearly claimed his second consecutive Driver’s title at Phoenix Raceway to the end the season. In the hunt for the crown until the final laps of 2021, Cindric finished as series runner-up while he and the No. 22 Ford team produced five victories, 22 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes in addition to 1,150 laps led while securing Team Penske’s 41st series championship and fifth NXS Owners’ title.
Cindric showed serious speed from the first green flag of the season, as he won Team Penske’s first NXS race at Daytona International Speedway to capture the early series points lead. That same weekend, he also made his NASCAR Cup Series debut, gaining experience while leading two laps in the No. 33 Mustang to post a 15th place finish in the Daytona 500.
Following the strong opening weekend, Cindric posted a string of top-five finishes with a second-place run at the Daytona Road Course, a fifth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a fourth-place effort at Las Vegas before he captured his second win of the season and eighth career victory at Phoenix International Raceway.
The next four NXS races brought a mix of results for the No. 22 Ford team as Cindric produced a 13th-place finish at Atlanta after the car sustained damage from early contact, a respectable sixth-place run at Martinsville, second-place in the rain-shortened race at Talladega Superspeedway and a 30th-place finish at Darlington as a result of a last-lap accident. Cindric and the No. 22 team rebounded in Dover as Cindric took the lead with 51 laps to go and never looked back. He crossed the finish line 3.79 seconds ahead of Josh Berry to win his third race of the 2021 season and his first victory at Dover International Speedway.
Cindric reeled off another string of top-five finishes with a fifth-place effort at the new Austin, Texas Circuit of the Americas circuit and a runner-up effort at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Four races later, Cindric held off a late charge by Ty Gibbs to win at Pocono for his 12th-career Xfinity Series victory. The No. 22 team race consistent over the next four race weekends leading at least 27 laps in each race while finishing no lower than 10th.
The weekend competing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) Road Course was a memorable one for Cindric. He won the 18th Annual Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard for his 13th career NXS victory. With his fifth victory of 2021, Cindric moved into a tie with former Team Penske drivers Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger for the most road course wins in the Xfinity Series (five).
Cindric also secured his best Cup Series result of the season at Indianapolis as he guided the No. 33 Ford Mustang to a ninth-place finish in the first NCS race on the IMS Road Course.
The results of the next two NXS races cut into Cindric’s 82 point-lead in the series championship standings. The No. 22 was collected in a multi-car accident at Michigan International Speedway which left Cindric with a 37th-place finish. Misfortune struck again for the team at Daytona International Speedway as the No. 22 Ford was turned into the front stretch wall early on while Cindric ran in the third position. The incident left the CarShop Mustang with extensive damage, resulting in a 39th-place finish as Cindric fell behind Allmendinger in the NXS championship standings.
With three races left in the NXS regular season, Cindric and the No. 22 team generated a strong third-place effort at Darlington before finishing 16th at Richmond. Just five points separated Cindric and Allmendinger with one regular season NXS race remaining at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Cindric started ninth, gained stage points to chip away at Allmendinger’s points lead but he finished second in a wild NASCAR Overtime finish as he closed the regular season second in points.
Throughout the NXS Playoffs, Cindric and the No. 22 team produced consistent results as they earned a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas, an eighth-place effort at Talladega and a second-place run at the Charlotte Road Course to advance to the Round of Eight.
Strong top-five finishes at Texas, Kansas, and Martinsville propelled the team into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway. Cindric and the CarShop Ford Mustang team were on their game as they won the pole and led 113 of the 204 laps in the race. Cindric and Daniel Hemric waged a thrilling battle for the race victory and the series title on the final lap as Hemric edged the Team Penske racer by just .030 seconds at the checkered flag. Cindric closed the 2021 NXS season second in driver points and the No. 22 team captured the Xfinity Series Owners’ Championship for the organization’s 41st all-time title.
In addition to the NXS title run and his strong Cup Series debut at Daytona to start the 2021 season, Cindric helped chart the path for his future by competing in additional six NCS races for Team Penske. Driving the No. 33 Ford Mustang under the leadership of crew chief Miles Stanley, Cindric produced good results at Atlanta, Richmond and Kansas early on in the Cup Series season.
Cindric showed speed early at The Circuit of the Americas after he qualified third in his first-ever Cup Series qualifying attempt. Before the race was called early due to low visibility, Cindric battled Cup Series veteran Kyle Busch for the race lead, pacing the field for four laps before finishing in the 25th position. He also impressed in the NCS road course race at Road America. Cindric qualified fifth, led two laps and he was battling for the race lead before the No. 33 car experienced a mechanical failure on lap 24, which resulted in a 38th place finish. In his final Cup Series race of 2021, Cindric posted his first career series top-10 finish at the IMS Road Course.
The promising NCS results and his consistent championship-level performance in the Xfinity Series have prepared Cindric to make the transition to a full-season competing in the Cup Series in 2022 as he takes the wheel of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang.
“This season not only gave myself and the 22 NXS team a great opportunity to really refine and work on small details and compete for a second title, but also to check off some victories at some tracks that hold a high level of significance to me like Dover, Daytona, and Indy,” said Cindric. “Racing off and on in the Cup Series provided some great perspective and helped me build a foundation for the future. Not to mention leading laps at the Daytona 500 off the front bumper of (teammate) Joey (Logano) was probably one of the coolest small moments in my career. On our NXS program, I have made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, and I am excited to begin the next chapter of my career in the No. 2 car.”