By virtue of winning the Daytona 500, rookie Austin Cindric is already locked in the playoffs with almost the entire regular season still ahead of him. That means an opportunity for Cindric and his No. 2 Team Penske team to take some chances they otherwise couldn’t have afforded, starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. It also gives Cindric room to make some of the mistakes that inevitably come with being a rookie driver in NASCAR’s top series.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of highs and lows in a rookie season,” Cindric, 23, said after becoming the second-youngest winner of the Daytona 500. “There’s going to be a lot of highs and lows with a new race car. So to be able to give ourselves that type of security this early in the season gives us some flexibility, gives me time to be patient. sI think that’s the biggest thing, because even through testing, I have to remind myself to be patient. If it’s the drivers that I’m now competing against or a new situation, I think patience is certainly going to pay off to make sure I don’t miss anything throughout the learning process.”
Cindric, who replaced Brad Keselowski in Team Penske’s iconic No. 2 car this season, also feels a certain sense of relief to have already put the Blue Deuce in Victory Lane. “It feels good,” he said. “I thought you were going to have to win a race to get in the playoffs this year, and we’re in the playoffs. We’re in the All-Star Race. I can’t tell you the last year the 2 car hasn’t won a race. So I’d say that’s a little bit of weight off the shoulders there.”