BY JARED TURNER
Over four full seasons in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Austin Cindric won a championship, finished runner-up in points, earned four top-10 points finishes, led more than 2,400 laps and went to Victory Lane 13 times.
That’s a pretty stellar record – even stellar enough to convince legendary team owner Roger Penske that Cindric is the driver to pilot Team Penske’s iconic No. 2 car driven the past 11 seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series by Brad Keselowski, who left the organization for an ownership opportunity.
When the time came for Roger Penske to pick a driver for his flagship car, he didn’t have to look far. Along with competing for Penske the last three-and-a-half years in the Xfinity Series, Cindric is the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric. Rest assured, though, Roger Penske chose the younger Cindric based on his own merits, which are pretty obvious.
“I couldn’t be prouder to say that he’s gonna be the driver of the No. 2 car, and I think he’s earned the respect,” Penske said. “You come in as the son of the guy who is the president of Team Penske, you’d probably come in with a little bit of weight on your shoulders, but I can tell you one thing: As far as I’m concerned, all that’s off.
“He’s proven to be the driver he is, the individual he is today.”
Cindric, 23, understands the heritage of the No. 2 car better than almost anyone because of his father’s longtime role with the company.
“In my bedroom at my parents’ house, I still have a picture … signed by Brad Keselowski sitting on my bed,” Cindric said. “As a kid, you just grow up rooting on those guys, and you don’t really picture yourself being one of them. There’s plenty I need to learn. I’m excited for that challenge.”
While Austin Cindric’s move to the NASCAR Cup Series from the Xfinity Series is huge, he’s not the only driver getting a big promotion. Here are four others who are moving up.
Harrison Burton: After a full season in trucks followed by two full seasons in the Xfinity Series, the 21-year-old son of former Cup Series driver Jeff Burton is set to embark on a career in the sport’s premier division. Burton, whose family’s roots are in his father’s hometown of South Boston, Virginia, will compete for Stuart, Virginia-birthed Wood Brothers Racing – the longest continuously operating team in NASCAR history.
Todd Gilliland: The son of former Cup Series driver David Gilliland is jumping to the Cup Series with the same Front Row Motorsports organization he’s raced for the last two seasons in trucks. Gilliland, who has two victories in 93 truck career starts, competed in NASCAR’s No. 3 division for Kyle Busch Motorsports before joining Front Row Motorsports. The 21-year-old has never entered a Cup or Xfinity Series race.
Justin Haley: It’s been a roller-coaster ride to the Cup Series for Haley, who is going full-time Cup Series racing after running a limited series schedule the past three years and even being credited with a Cup Series victory at Daytona in July 2019 thanks to a perfectly timed rain storm. Haley is moving to Cup with Kaulig Racing – his team for each of the last three Xfinity Series seasons.
Sheldon Creed: The 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ is taking the next logical step in his career by joining Richard Childress Racing’s Xfinity Series program after scoring eight wins over three seasons at the truck level. Creed, who followed up his championship-winning season with a fifth-place points finish for the same GMS Racing team, will drive a No. 2 Chevy for RCR.