Austin Cindric Earns NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award

by Jonathan Howard
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(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Austin Cindric started the season with a win at Daytona and will end it as a playoff driver and the NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. This season couldn’t have been much better for Cindric in his debut. As a Team Penske driver, he made a mark on the 2022 season.

When Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500, we knew this kid had something in him. He proved it this season as he made his way into the playoffs and showed flashes of great driving throughout the season. Cindric leads a talented group of rookies that also included Harrison Burton of Wood Brothers Racing as well as Todd Gilliland of Front Row Motorsports.

This news is kind of old, though. Since Cindric was the only rookie to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, we knew this was coming since the postseason began. In the No. 2 Ford Mustang, Cindric had one of the better rookie seasons in recent years. While he has a little bit to learn about team racing and more, there’s a bright future for Cindric.

The 24-year-old reflected on that Daytona 500 win and how it affected the rest of his rookie season. When you don’t have the pressure of winning for the rest of the year, it makes it easier to focus on the little things.

Austin Cindric Grateful for Daytona Win

Now, the Daytona 500 win gave Austin Cindric the ticket to the playoffs. However, he held his own throughout the year with five finishes in the top five and nine in the top 10. He wouldn’t be eliminated immediately from the playoffs either, making the Round of 12 before being pushed out.

“It does change the regular season in the fact I’m able to go through the regular season without the pressure of having to win a race as well as figure everything out,” Cindric explained, via NASCAR.com. “And that was probably more of an advantage than I give it credit for, not having to put pressure on yourself, your team or have to be desperate.”

He never was desperate. All season he was able to control things and figure out this Next Gen car on his own. Ford has a strong group of young drivers and for now, Austin Cindric is the face of that movement.

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