Lexus Racing’s Austin Cindric hopes he will “stay relevant” in sportscar racing this year as the IMSA SportsCar Championship rookie prepares to embark on his first full NASCAR Truck Series campaign.
18-year-old Cindric earned his opportunity at Lexus after an impressive first season of Pirelli World Challenge last year with K-PAX Racing, taking three pole positions and narrowly missing out on a first win at Sonoma on his way to eighth in points.
Following a tough debut for the RC F GT3 at the 24 Hours of Daytona, where the No. 15 car Cindric shared with Robert Alon, Jack Hawksworth and Dominik Farnbacher lost several laps to a puncture while leading, his NASCAR commitments will take priority from next week onwards.
However, whilst Cindric’s only further appearances this season for the Paul Gentilozzi-run 3GT Racing outfit will come in the three remaining North American Endurance Cup rounds at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans, he reaffirmed that sportscar racing is an important component of his continued development curve.
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) January 29, 2017
“I want to stay relevant in sportscar racing – just because I’m doing NASCAR Tucks that it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be in sportscars,” Cindric told Racing.GT.
“My career has been about driving as many different things as possible and if I can be driving NASCARs and sportscars in an equal amount in a parallel spectrum, I would love to do that because I’m passionate about it.
“I feel like I’ve gained a lot of experience that shouldn’t go to waste, I’ve created a lot of great relationships and met a lot of cool people along the way.
“At the end of the year I was able to have some success, have a few poles and a few podiums and that’s what gave the guys the confidence to bring me here. TRD and Lexus have a big sportscar history, so to be able to come and be a part of that is really cool for me personally.”
Cindric, who in 2015 became the youngest-ever Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race winner aged just 16, steadily improved last year under the wing of eventual PWC champion Alvaro Parente at K-PAX, which followed a confidence-boosting run at the Bathurst 12 Hour with Erebus Motorsport.
He came close to return for this year’s race, but a deal fell through at the last moment.
“Last year was 100% useful, [the PWC deal] came together at a late point in the year, but the Flying Lizard/K-PAX team was an awesome group of guys to learn from and obviously Alvaro was an awesome gauge for me to have, being a McLaren factory driver,” he continued.
“Running with Maro [Engel] and Bernd [Schneider] last year [at Bathurst] was such an awesome experience, we had the chance to win the thing. We had just gotten back on the lead lap and we had some awesome straight-line speed because the diffuser was knocked off, but we ended up blowing a tyre and that ended our race.
“I’m really passionate about that event and I tried very hard in a lot of different areas to try and make it back there. I’ve definitely got some unfinished business there.”
Best of luck to all my friends down @Bathurst12hour. Tried really hard to go again this year but the stars did not align. Such a great event
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) February 3, 2017
Cindric will embark on his first full season in Trucks with Brad Keselowski Racing, owned by 2012 Sprint Cup champion Keselowski, who also drives for Team Penske in the Cup Series. Tim Cindric, Austin’s father, has served as the President of Team Penske since 2006, but Cindric junior is under no illusions that there will be a guaranteed seat for him in future.
“If I do it’s because I deserve it, just like any other driver,” he added. “Obviously I’ve grown up around it and my dad is very involved over there, but I wouldn’t have any support or be a part of it unless I deserve to.”