By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Over the course of a 24-hour race such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona, reliability often comes into play. However, one piece of equipment that is not something that typically fails often is the door. A jammed door is exactly what Austin Cindric faced at the start of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
The plan was for Cindric to run a double stint and hand the car over to Pietro Fittipaldi after taking over for Eric Lux. However, when the NASCAR Cup Series driver pitted, the door to the LMP2 wouldn’t open.
Trapped inside the LMP2, Cindric ran a second double stint. Though a jammed door can be a safety issue, the Rick Ware Racing team troubleshooted the issue, releasing the door at the end of the second stint.
“It’s been eventful as described for this deal, but I thought I was starting off with a double stint that ended up being a quad stint ’cause the door got stuck closed,” Cindric explained on USA Network. “Just one of those deals and we got ourselves back on the lead lap by the time the sun came up and, Devlin (DeFrancesco), Pietro, and Eric have been doing a great job.”
The 6’4” Cindric was one of the tallest drivers in the Prototype field. The Team Penske NASCAR driver had to maneuver his legs every time he turned the wheel for the car to accommodate his height. Cindric found an unexpected consequence as he was left with dark marks on the both the left and right thigh of his firesuit from repeated contact from his hands as he turned the wheel.
“I’ve got two dark marks, one right here (on the left left), and one right here (on the right leg),” Cindric said on USA Network. “Those are my hands. My hands just rubbed on my seat the whole time. Just sawing on the wheel. My knees are part of the chassis now.”
Despite the issues that Cindric and his Rick Ware team had encountered, they were still on the lead lap after the sun rose about 17 hours into the race. Back in the car, Cindric was gaining ground until the left front brake rotor exploded. Shards shot through the top of the tire, forcing him to limp to pit road.
“The sun comes up and that’s when you got to measure whether or not you’re in the game,” Cindric stated on USA Network. “We were in the game more than we ever had when the sun came up. Then I watched my left front brake rotor fly through the top of my tire. That’s never good that that took us out of the game quite a bit.”
The brake rotor and subsequent flat tire put Cindric and the No. 51 ORECA LMP2 07 several laps down. A handful of late-race cautions allowed the team to regain a couple of those laps. However, they still finished three laps behind the LMP2 class leaders.
For Cindric, the sixth-place class finish marked the end of his sixth attempt at winning a Rolex watch at Daytona International Speedway. Now the Mooresville, N.C. native will turn his attention back to NASCAR for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race.
The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum is scheduled for Sunday, February 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Channel 90.