Austin Cindric: ‘I Had Enough Time to Think If Four-Wide was a Good Idea’

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

Four-wide racing rarely works at traditional superspeedways, but Austin Cindric found a way to make it work at the narrow confines of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In the closing laps of the Ambetter Health 400, Austin Cindric forced the NASCAR Cup Series field to squeeze four cars side-by-side. While Atlanta races similar to both Daytona Int’l Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, is it is not nearly as wide as the other drafting tracks. While the four-wide race was sketchy, it worked and proved to be a good idea by the Team Penske driver.

“That was kind of cool, wasn’t it?” Cindric joked. “I mean, four-wide at Atlanta, that doesn’t really work in the corners, it only works in the straights, but I had enough time to think about if (four-wide) was a good idea and it was a good idea. I’m sure it looked cool and made for good pictures.”

Cindric pushed the field four-wide when his No. 2 Menards / Knauf Insulation Ford Mustang Dark Horse had a run. While he cleared his competitors fairly quickly, the four-wide race remained behind him. In fact, his fellow Cup drivers kept the four-wide action up for multiple laps without incident. The increased turbulence due to the narrow confines and the hood louvers made the four-wide racing all the more impressive to Cindric.

“They were only four-wide with me for about half-a-second,” Cindric recalled. “I had a big enough run that didn’t last too long. I did look in my mirrors expecting them to wreck being four-wide for that many laps. That is pretty impressive. 

“What the viewer doesn’t understand is how difficult it is to follow at this racetrack, especially when you have all that turbulent air coming out of the hood next to the other cars. That’s what got me at the end, honestly, guys just running close to me. It’s not easy to do, but I guess that’s why they call us the best in the world.”

In a five-lap run to the finish, the 2022 Daytona 500 winner lined up inside the top-five. Cindric tried to help his Penske teammate, and defending Cup champion Ryan Blaney even as the race became a free-for-all. That help didn’t last as his car tightened up, forcing him to wash up.

The loss of help ended up leaving Blaney second to race winner Daniel Suarez by the narrowest of margins, 0.003 seconds with Kyle Busch 0.007 behind. Cindric was 0.077 behind Suarez as the lead trio too the checkered flag in a thrilling photo finish.

The Ford Performance driver was inside the top-10 before a late-race crash on the final lap of the season-opener one week ago.

“It’s really unfortunate to have two weeks in a row where I feel like Team Penske has brought three of the best racecars to the racetrack and not come home with a win,” Cindric said. “Obviously, we got really close with the 12. It was fun to lead laps and win the Stage. I got in a real tight aero spot while I was following Ryan and washed up the track a bit.

“He was, honestly, in a really tough spot with the runs that were coming from behind. I thought he was going to be able to hold on, but the first win for the Mustang Dark Horse has to wait another race, but I’m really proud of the effort. It should be a really great points day for us, so that puts us on the right side of things heading into Vegas.”

In addition to winning the second Stage of the 400-mile race, Cindric also had one of the few cars that was incident-free. Only seven cars finished at Atlanta without being swept up in one of the 10 cautions throughout the race.

The fourth-place finish was Cindric’s first top-five of 2024 and the seventh of his Cup Series career. It marked the Mooresville, N.C. native’s first top-five finish since the 2023 Talladega playoff race.

The top-five finish propelled Cindric from 11th to third in the points standings. He is just one point behind leader Busch and 29-points above the playoff cutline, currently held by Christopher Bell.

Next for Cindric is the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In four starts at the traditional 1.5-mile track the 25-year-old as one top-10 finish, sixth in last year’s Spring race.

The Pennzoil 400 is scheduled for Sunday, March 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *