It seemed as though the 2017 season was a wild start for many drivers including Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 19 Ford F-150. On the first lap of the season, he, along with others, was collected in a Lap 1 crash that took out most of the field. A 27th-place finish at Daytona was not the way the Columbus, Ohio driver was hoping to start out.
His first top 10 of the season came at Kansas where he finished 10th. At Dover, he earned his first ever top five, finishing fifth. The following week at Fort Worth, Cindric was involved in a crash on Lap 28 taking him out early, with the scoring pylon showing him 25th that night. When the summer months came around, his finishes began to improve, as he scored his career-best finish of fourth at Kentucky.
“We had an awesome LTi Printing Ford F-150 all night and it was cool to have those guys here at the track,” Cindric said. “Getting to race around Kyle Busch and learn from him was a huge plus for me. For the first time this year, we finished where I feel like we deserved to, and I’m really proud of the effort. Doug [Randolph, crew chief] did an awesome job making sure we were stable enough for the race, and the pit crew was fantastic. We need races like this for the rest of the season. I learned a lot and I’m really proud of that.”
He continued to finish inside the top 10 in the following races throughout the summer months, including having a controversial first ever career win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. On the last lap of the race, Cindric gave his friend Kaz Grala a bump, spinning Grala out as Cindric went on to win and collect a spot in the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. For Cindric, however, it felt like a must-win situation.
“It was an incredible weekend for this Draw-Tite team,” he said. “We unloaded and were fast right away and I’ve got to thank Doug [Randolph, crew chief] and all the guys at BKR for that. I’m not sure there was one highlight I saw all week where there wasn’t somebody getting into the back of somebody else to win the race, but I hate that it came down to that. I’ve known Kaz for a long time and I think he, or anyone else, would have done the exact same thing with that much on the line.
“The way NASCAR’s point system is now, you have to win and you’re in the playoffs. I feel like this team deserves the win and I feel like it’s going to uplift everyone in the shop. This truck was brand new and purpose built for this race, and I had to carry out my job and win the race. My experience road racing was what was able to get me from 16th to ninth on a restart and ninth to fourth on the next restart. I feel like, without that experience, I wouldn’t have won today.”
When the Playoffs began at Loudon, Cindric finished inside the top 10 for two races and finished inside the top five in four races, including a second at Fort Worth. With those consistent finishes, he clinched a spot in the Championship 4, competing for his first championship.
“It means the world to me to put Brad Keselowski Racing in the Championship 4,” Cindric said. “It’s a huge opportunity for me and for everyone on this team, especially since this is the last race for BKR. I’ve got thank everyone for putting their heart and soul into this program. It’s also really special to have Draw-Tite and REESE Brands on our Ford F-150 this weekend. Horizon Global has been a longtime partner with BKR and it’s incredibly special to have them along for the ride this weekend. I’ve never raced at Homestead, so I’m getting as much information and talking to as many people as I can. We are the underdog, and I love that. It’s going to be critical for me to get up to speed and understand the balance of the race truck.”
When it was finally time for the Championship 4 weekend at Homestead, the former No. 19 driver qualified third for the Ford 200. In Stages 1 and 2, Cindric finished sixth in both. He ran as high as second and as low as 11th and ran about fourth throughout the race. Cindric was never able to lead a lap in the final event of the season. As 2017 came a close, he finished fifth, third among the Championship 4 standings. Despite finishing fifth in the race, Cindric wanted a little more.
“We had better short-run speed in our Draw-Tite Ford F-150 than anybody else,” he said. “If we would have had one more restart there, it would have been a lot of fun. We wish we could have brought home a championship on Ford Championship Weekend. I drove my heart out to try and get by the No. 4 of Bell. I had to start trying some things. I tried the top there and was able to get around Crafton on the last lap with a slide job for third in the championship. I’m really pumped about that. I love these guys. I’m so excited for the future. I hope we get to work with some of these guys moving forward and I know that I’m blessed to be where I am.”
With Brad Keselowski Racing not fielding an entry for quite some time in the Truck Series, the 2018 season will see Cindric competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series by sharing a ride with Chase Briscoe in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
In 2017, he collected one win, eight top fives and 16 top 10 finishes, along with an average start of 9.1 and an average finish of 10.2 with 106 laps led.
For more news on Austin Cindric, follow him on Twitter @AustinCindric and on Instagram @AustinCindric.