Austin Cindric graduates with honors at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The first 500-mile race for NASCAR’s Next Gen car is in the books. And for much of the 500 miles the NASCAR Cup series drivers went to school learning as much as they could about the new machine.

When class was dismissed, it was sophomore Austin Cindric who graduated as an honor student.

In his second Daytona 500 appearance, and his first as a fulltime Cup driver, Cindric took control of a crash filled Daytona 500 grabbing the lead in the final 8 laps after a caution, holding the top spot through two more crashes, one of which caused a red flag, and held off Bubba Wallace on an overtime finish to win the sport’s biggest race by .036 of a second. It was the fifth Daytona 500 win for Penske Racing with the fifth driver and came on team owner Roger Penske’s 85th birthday.

“Oh My God – do you know what makes this even better? A packed house. A packed house at the Daytona 500,” Cindric said. “Oh my God, I’ve got so many people to thank. First adn Foremost Roger Penske. Happy Birthday! I appreciate Ryan being a great teammate. Obviously, he wanted to win this one.

“Everyone has worked so hard on this Next Gen car and through the whole process. I am so excited. This makes up for losing a championship in the last race I was in (2021 Xfinity Series season finale).

“I’m surrounded by great people, that’s all there is to it. I know there’s going to be highs and lows, being a rookie. I’m just grateful for the opportunity and excited to climb the mountain ahead of us on the No. 2 team. We’re in the playoffs – that’s one box checked. My gosh, what an awesome group of fans; what an awesome race car. I’m just really thankful.”

For Wallace it marked the second time he’s finished second in the Daytona 500.

“What could have been, right?” Wallace said. “Man, need to talk about some happy stuff here. Just dejected, but the thing that keeps me up is just the hard work that we put into our speedway stuff and the hard work from everybody at 23-11, proud of them, can’t thank them enough.

“I knew this was a big move last year for me to go out and be competitive, and we’re showing that.”

The driver Cindric replaced at Penske, Brad Keselowski, was firmly in control for much of the race leading a race high 67 laps. On a chaotic run out of turn 4 heading to the start finish line, Keselowski was swept up in a crash across the line and had to settle for ninth.

Behind Cindric and Wallace, Chase Briscoe overcame starting from the back of the field and going a lap down after getting damage in an earlier crash to finish third. Ryan Blaney who was second at the white flag was fourth, and Aric Almirola in his final Daytona 500 was fifth.

The first big crash came just before the end of Stage 1 when Keselowski got into Harrison Burton on lap 64 sending Burton’s Ford airborne and sweeping up three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and William Byron, and several others. Hamlin, Bell, and Byron however were the only ones who were out of the race.

Martin Truex Jr. won both Stages but with 50 laps to go, Tyler Reddick lost control on the frontstretch after a broken suspension on his Chevy. Reddick swept up Truex, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano. Truex still managed to finish 13th.

The first of two cautions with 10 laps to go was set off when Kevin Harvick lost control after contact from behind by Kyle Larson. The Harvick car was sent into the side of Noah Gragson in the tri-oval. Gragson came across the track into the outside retaining wall, collecting Larson and Harvick. Other drivers involved included Erik Jones and rookie Todd Gilliland. Elliott spun while trying to avoid the crash and was able to continue.

The two-lap shootout was set up after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed after contact from Brad Keselowski at the exit of Turn 4. Chris Buescher’s Ford was damaged after hitting Stenhouse during the incident. Stenhouse also hit Wallace with Wallace’s Toyota losing a right front fender.

Kyle Busch, 2021 Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell, David Ragan, and behind Keselowski Chase Elliott rounded out the top 10.

NASCAR heads west, back to California to Auto Club Speedway for the first time since 2020 next Sunday.

 

Photos: NASCAR at Daytona International Speedway Sunday Feb. 20, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results 64th Annual DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 20, 2022

  1. (5)  Austin Cindric #, Ford, 201.
  2. (16)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 201.
  3. (9)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 201.
  4. (7)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 201.
  5. (38)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 201.
  6. (10)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 201.
  7. (6)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 201.
  8. (34)  David Ragan, Ford, 201.
  9. (3)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 201.
  10. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 201.
  11. (26)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 201.
  12. (33)  Daniel Hemric(i), Chevrolet, 201.
  13. (14)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 201.
  14. (24)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 201.
  15. (27)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 201.
  16. (4)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 200.
  17. (32)  Cody Ware, Ford, 200.
  18. (21)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 199.
  19. (17)  Kurt Busch, Toyota, 199.
  20. (31)  Cole Custer, Ford, 199.
  21. (20)  Joey Logano, Ford, 198.
  22. (40)  Jacques Villeneuve, Ford, 198.
  23. (25)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 198.
  24. (2)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 197.
  25. (36)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 197.
  26. (35)  Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 196.
  27. (37)  BJ McLeod, Ford, 196.
  28. (18)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 194.
  29. (13)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 191.
  30. (22)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, DVP, 191.
  31. (39)  Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 190.
  32. (1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 190.
  33. (29)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, Accident, 190.
  34. (12)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 152.
  35. (15)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 151.
  36. (28)  Greg Biffle(i), Chevrolet, 136.
  37. (30)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 63.
  38. (23)  William Byron Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 62.
  39. (8)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, Accident, 62.
  40. (19)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, Accident, 62.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  142.295 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 31 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .036 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 37 laps.

Lead Changes:  35 among 13 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 0;B. Keselowski 1-6;K. Busch 7;B. Keselowski 8-26;K. Busch 27-31;B. Keselowski 32;K. Busch 33-37;R. Stenhouse Jr. 38;H. Burton # 39;J. Logano 40;K. Busch 41-57;W. Byron Jr. 58;H. Burton # 59-60;M. Truex Jr. 61-67;A. Dillon 68;E. Jones 69-71;R. Blaney 72-107;M. Truex Jr. 108;B. Wallace 109;B. Keselowski 110-124;K. Larson 125;B. Keselowski 126-129;M. Truex Jr. 130-132;B. Wallace 133;B. Keselowski 134-155;B. Wallace 156;A. Cindric # 157-162;B. Wallace 163-166;A. Cindric # 167-168;B. Wallace 169-170;A. Cindric # 171-175;B. Wallace 176-177;R. Stenhouse Jr. 178;B. Wallace 179;R. Stenhouse Jr. 180-193;A. Cindric # 194-201.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Brad Keselowski 6 times for 67 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 36 laps; Kyle Busch 4 times for 28 laps; Austin Cindric # 4 times for 21 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3 times for 16 laps; Bubba Wallace 7 times for 12 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 3 times for 11 laps; Harrison Burton # 2 times for 3 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 3 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 1 lap; William Byron Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; Austin Dillon 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,6,38,47,22,3,45,43,5,9

Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,22,23,6,47,2,17,4,5,38