Team Penske’s Austin Cindric Capitalizes On Next Gen Car Debut In Daytona 500

Austin Cindric celebrates with a burnout after winning the Daytona 500 Sunday (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 was decided by a couple feet – rookie Austin Cindric’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford nudging ahead of Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota as they crossed the most famous finish line in stock car racing alongside one another in front of a sold-out crowd.

All afternoon long, the race featured close racing, strategic drafting and ultimately an overtime restart to settle the winner’s famed Harley J. Earl trophy.

There were 35 lead changes among 13 drivers in a decidedly competitive high-speed dance of skill and will. Today’s Daytona 500 also saw 104 green flag passes for the lead; the fifth-most since the creation of the Loop Data statistic in 2007. 

And for all the emotion and drama of the race, the drivers had nothing but encouraging remarks about the premier series’ points racing debut of the NASCAR Next Gen cars – officially marking a new era of racing featuring the most innovative technical changes to the sport in decades, if not ever.

“At the end of the day, it’s a race car,” Wallace said, standing on pit road following the race. “I actually enjoyed being behind the wheel and learning a lot. The draft is a little bit different. Pushing is a little bit different, so some things that we need to work on and enhance our speed in some areas.

“So it’ll be a good debrief tomorrow. We’ll just talk about it and try to get better.”

Technically the car features a new horsepower package, aerodynamic changes, single-lugnut wheels, a composite body, even a new camera-rearview mirror. Aesthetically, the cars look different with numbers moved from the car doors further up toward the front fender area.

Teams spent much of the offseason testing them – their feedback resulting in tweaks here and there. And ultimately the car was declared ready for competition – Sunday’s race it’s important regular season debut.

As with Wallace, Aric Almirola, who finished fifth in his last fulltime season start in the Daytona 500, was impressed with the new car. He started 38th on the 40-car grid and was able to methodically work his way forward – missing multiple multi-car incidents to get his Ford to the front draft and in position to at least compete for the win.

“I thought the car was resilient,” Almirola said. “I thought the car was dicey to bump draft aggressively, the cars move around a lot and the bumpers are rounded so they don’t make a perfect match, but nonetheless, it was Daytona and we put on a great race, a wild finish and it’s always exciting.”

Added race winner Cindric, “There’s so much different about this car but it’s still the same style of racing. … It was really interesting to see who picked up on different things in the race and even in practice.”

Cindric’s team owner Roger Penske agreed.

“I think we’re on a great trajectory,” Penske said. “All the new fans we had at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and certainly selling this place out, I think is terrific,” Penske said, adding “Everybody’s got the same hammer and it’s up to strategy, execution and the driver.”

“I think the cars we have today and the new rules are terrific,” he said.


*Austin Cindric’s victory in the Daytona 500 has not only been a confidence boost for his first fulltime season in the NASCAR Cup Series, but it’s also positioned him for another trophy. He is tied with Brad Keselowski for the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings lead but his Daytona 500 win gives him the tiebreaker.

And, his effort puts him atop the series’ Rookie of the Year points standings – ahead of Todd Gilliland, who finished 33rd and Harrison Burton, who was involved in an accident and finished 39th in the 40-car field. Cindric is the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 in series history.

*Former Indy 500 winner (1995)  and 1997 Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve finished 22nd in his Daytona 500 debut. It marked his first NASCAR Cup Series start since 2013 – the fifth in his career. Former Daytona 500 winning crew chief Tommy Baldwin helped lead the effort this week.

*Hendrick Motorsports is still looking for a Daytona 500 race result to equal its Daytona 500 qualifying work. The team swept the front row in qualifying but it was the race proved to be another challenging endeavor. Chase Elliott had the team’s best showing in 10th-place. The championship organization’s other three cars were collected in accidents and finished laps down.

*Aric Almirola was clearly sentimental, but smiling when he climbed out of his No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford after a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s race. It marked his last Daytona 500 start as a fulltime driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. 

“This place means so much to me. I’ve sat up in those grandstands. I’ve won an Xfinity Series race here. I’ve won the July [Cup] race and I’ve won a [Daytona 500 qualifying] Duel,” Almirola said.

“This Daytona 500 just keeps getting away from me. Still, it was so much fun and so cool for my family and everybody to be here and experience it and enjoy it. I’m sure they were going bananas, jumping up and down thinking we had a shot to win.”


  1. So what’s the consensus was the race good or not? Did the Next Gen car change much for the better or worse?
    Penske says the new car performed well and is a lot cheaper to build and maintain. He’s loving it.
    How was the end not exciting. The wrecks, blocking and bonehead moves looked like the same old thing to me. Poor Ricky Stenhouse just one of many deprived of a great finish by circumstance.
    You watch because it’s Daytona but it just doesn’t do it for me any more. It’s just so sloppy and disorganized at the end where luck plays a greater roll then skill.
    6 modified races last week now that was special.

  2. How do wheels fall off with 1 lug and supposed locking device on lug? Never liked Cindric, Talks about other drivers, and stuffs his teammate in the wall. (Glass Houses). Truex got screwed!

  3. Here’s a list of all the cars Keselowski did not hit:

  4. Ok Doug, Ill play.
    Remember, I’ve posted on the duels, the truck race, the Xfinity race, and the cup race, as well as the clash, which I watch every year. And I must say, there seems to be very little interest here on those topics. But to me its all racing, and I like most all of it. (Disclosure, no fan of F1 though) In the end, Im just a fan, and like the exchange of opinions with fellow fans. That being said Doug, here goes…..
    I thought, for the most part, it looked like typical restrictor plate racing at the big track.
    And, I’m on the edge of my seat watching it. Ive always liked the plate racing. But would not want a full season of it for sure. 4 races a year is plenty.
    Watching a plate race is kind of like driving past an accident on the road. You know you really should not look, but you do anyway….(I know, stupid analogy) I realize, to the drivers in any of those cars, you need a boatload of luck, and are along for the ride if things go awry. I also realize that drivers need to be smart as well.
    A couple of takeaways for me.
    Bonehead driver of the day, imo, Keslowski. Jeez Louise. Fast piece, maybe trying to do too much as a new owner to make an impression, I don’t know. But dang, Burton has a yellow stripe, and kes pushed like a madman through the corners let alone the straights, not lined up with Burton, who was clearly on ice with it. (on tv i know, but my opinion). I thought for stenthouse, its a different set of circumstances as its a few laps to go for the win, unlike burton, where stage 1 had not even been finished. So that happens with 10 to go, and all those guys expect it. Plus, truth be told, I’m really not rooting for stenthouse (again petty) after jtg bounced preece. But that does not mean i wish him ill will, or to be taken out. Again, I know, very petty, but i am what i am. But still, I thought, Kes over aggressive, and in the end, did cost him a better finish.
    The new gen car, I thought, crashes different. I noticed that any hit to the rear wheels, or rear wheel assembly seemed to be much more catastrophic to the rear end than previous gen cars. I saw saw more mistracking and misalignment on cars after incidents yesterday than i have previously seen in these types of races after rear crashes. Seemed that way, in my view anyways.
    I think the cars stood up well after being walled head first. They seemed to have way less hanging off them after crashes. Mostly intact.
    Burton did extremely well, for being on his roof. Thank goodness.
    Not sure about wheel integrity, after what appeared to be a couple of split rim incidents. Also, it appears, that its way tougher after crashes, if you end up in the infield grass with the lower profile tires/rims to get out of muck imo.
    Had no idea that all teams could see competitors data while racing this year, even if they are not part of that team! Spotters giving real time data to their driver, culled from a competitor on the track! When hamlin asked about the braking and throttle positions through corners of the track from a competitor’s data, and was answered with exactly what that competitor from another team was doing from hamlin’s spotter, well, that blew me away! Had no idea that was now available to spotters real time to relay to his driver!
    Did not know in all the pre-publicity hype, that nascar put a restrictor in the nozzles of the fuel cans at the cup level this year! Not sure if its to even the playing field or if its to be environmentally friendlier, , so as to not splash as much raw fuel on pit road.
    Its the little things, like, don’t go when the jack drops, cause we are still fueling, as that now takes longer than changing the rubber with the one lug. Wait for for crew chief verbal command.
    Drivers getting used to sequential shifting and a 5th gear. All those little things with a new vehicle that changed yesterday.
    So, as for your question, was it a success? I dont know. The race looked mostly the same as plate races of old. So if you liked the same style of plate racing, then I guess that’s a success if thats your cup of tea. Damages to cars, different. Pit road strategies (imo) very different, but now lackluster, I guess for me. The vibe is totally different, and maybe im not used to new changes (one lug) as i liked the drama of the old 5 lug tire changes. Another variable that i will miss. Tire rubs on fenders from close contact. Ill miss those, as that’s another strategy call for the most part, thats gone with the new car. Do we pit? Will tire cut down before we have a chance to pit, or will we get a caution?
    I need to see a greater body of work from the next gen cars at different types of venues, before i can form an opinion on how I feel about the next gen car. But I’ll be watching, as that’s part of the mystique as to how it all shakes out.
    As for the 500, did I enjoy the race itself? Well, it did check all the old, “restrictor plate race boxes”, for me, that I am a fan of. However, I could personally do with way less pre race hype. I must say, I’m skipping that from now on. When I want that type of hype, I’ll tune into wrestling, thank you.
    I think Im with Dareal, that its ok to have stage racing, but don’t stop at the end of the stage. Put some of the race back in the crew chiefs hands. No automatic cautions, now that the new gen car is purported to be the equalizer for all teams on pit road.
    But I do agree on one thing. You just cant beat good modified racing. Trumps all.
    Was disappointed to see that Preece got very little recognition on his very nice second place finish in the SLM race Saturday night.
    Thanks for listening, hope you are glad u asked the question! Personally, Im glad u put it out there, am interested in what others may have to say on the topic. TY. B

  5. Great analysis. Thanks!

  6. Bobf wrote, “Did not know in all the pre-publicity hype, that nascar put a restrictor in the nozzles of the fuel cans at the cup level this year! ”

    I did not realize there are these restrictors in the fuel can nozzles. I thought the new center nut wheel changes were so fast it made the refueling look slow. It was interesting seeing that gas was the last thing keeping the cars in the pits, after the tires were on and the car was down. Makes me wonder why they were doing two tire changes only to wait for gas, they shoulda been taking four all along and doing better on the track. This is not good… there will be more cars driving away with gas cans attached this season. The crew put the tires on and then just stood around waiting for gas… it was weird.

    The team, or tribal, battling never really formed. Early, there were some trains or manufacturers working together, but it was really every car for itself. Hendrick’s cars were silent, except for Larson towards the end, the Chevrolets were a non-factor, Bubba Wallace was pretty much all on his own. Keselowski was the ball in a pinball machine.

    Bottom line… it was super speedway plate racing. The more things changed the more it was still kinda the same… plate racing.

  7. Sharpie Fan says

    Keslowski did not hit the pace car (although I think he tried).

    I wish they would have shown which cars were a lap down so we could know who was in line to get the Lucky Dog and who was multiple laps down for pitting for repairs, but it seemed like once cars started wrecking they just went to showing mph. Also would have been nice to see a clock on the pit stops.
    I checked out the Infraction Report on Jayski and was amazed at all of the penalties that did not get reported. I think I remember hearing one speeding penalty and that was it.

  8. Bobf wrote, “I think Im with Dareal, that its ok to have stage racing, but don’t stop at the end of the stage. Put some of the race back in the crew chiefs hands. No automatic cautions, now that the new gen car is purported to be the equalizer for all teams on pit road.”

    It is true, great minds think alike.

    Bobf, my objective behind the stage racing was to incentivize within the race. Sort of what the Lucky Dog does… it makes cars race to be the first car a lap down. Well, my thought with stage racing was to incentivize within the race, to get the cars to race within the race. I think it should go further, in that much more points and purse needs to be paid out throughout, or within, the race at the stage gates. Like 10 points and 10% of the purse at the end of the first stage, 15 points and 15% of the purse at the end of the second stage. This should reduce most of the pacing that happens until GO-TIME. It will also introduce risk, which translates to excitement for the fans. They also need to explore 4 or 5 stages, with these intermediate points and purse payouts, and NO STOPPING at the conclusion of the stages. Just race right through. And it should not be a winner-take-all deal for the stage payouts. Do something like the top 3 of each stage get some sort of scaled points and purse payout. That will get more action.

    NASCAR, you can thank me later.

  9. I thought it was similar to past plate races, the plusses being more passing and lead changes. Don’t know if that was coincidence or due to the new cars. Even though there is only one lug nut, you still have to make sure the wheel is seated on the hub before tightening. And those wheels apparently don’t have the forgiveness that the old steel wheels do. No more bent wheels, it’s either in one piece or it’s broken. That extra downforce and ground effects are great until you get in the grass. No more driving from the infield to the pits unless you happen to stop on pavement.

  10. Suitcase Jake says

    The Transaxle is the weak link of the new design.,…. They just don’t take a beating like the solid housing rear ends.. as I mentioned before the season… Plate Racing Sucks … it’s only a crap shoot.. crap racing … basically survival to big crashes crashes crashes…. Somebody is gonna get killed… Ryan Newman came close last year… The Xfininty crash the engine and transmission were tore right out of the car along with all the running gear.. Very Lucky someone wasn’t hurt near Michael Jordan’s camper area..all the debris coming thru the the fence… 100 feet of which was replaced after the wreck … too many car’s FLYING and FLIPPING thru the AIR ….Race car Driver’s hate plate racing but don’t wanna rock the BOAT ….Plate racing is terrible…& deadly….

  11. Well DaReal, I agree that incentives are what everything, including racing, is what makes the world go round.
    So, I think the next gen car offers owners a better bang for their buck, if there really is such a thing (sic) in racing.
    Hard to judge from a plate race, as to how this goes forward. As racing is, as far as a fan’s perspective for the most part is concerned, is the drama of it all unfolding, or the entertainment value. The chess match. From the true race fan’s perspective imo anyway. Sorry if I burred anybody’s butt there, but I think you all know what I mean.
    Daytona sold out. Great for the sport, and looked terrific on tv. The Coliseum, a media spectacle at the very least. So, all signs point up. How many “new” fans stay? Remains to be seen.
    As a longtime fan as are many on this site for sure, my concern is that the new gen car may be too good. I offer this perspective.
    I think that no one here could ever argue that safer, is better. Certainly not me. Top of the list.
    My only concern is, for a while now, the “bigs” have had some aura of not being exciting enough, aka, “taxi cab” series. While anything new takes a while, and adjustments will be made for sure, I’m hoping the new car doesn’t take away too much of the variables of pit strategies, and on track incidents, that require quick thinking crew chief’s decisions on the fly. I will only speak for me personally, but its part of the racing that I love. So if Im old and my needle is stuck in the 60’s, so be it.
    So when Doug asked if we thought the 500 and new gen car was a success, I really had to think about it. Success for Nascar? Success for owners? Success for drivers? Well, I can only opine as a fan. I have to see the new gen car at a variety of tracks first. But truth be told, I hope Nascar hasn’t created the perfect car, that there is no drama left, and it becomes even more of a “taxi cab” series. This fan has to have an open mind, and see where it goes from here at different venues. Hopefully good, hopefully full stands. But I think as a fan now, you may have to pay attention to the finer points of the dance, because it may not be so obvious to a casual fan. In the long run, I’m not sure that translates to a bump in the stands. I’m sure interested to see where this goes. But if you see stage tweaks DaReal, we all might just have the answer to that question. Jmo.

  12. I like Dareals ideas, a race within a race with money and points on the line, no stage ending caution. Stagger the stage lengths, or better yet don’t pre announce them, just have a radio announcement that the stage will end in 4 laps. They need to use the 800 hp package everywhere. 2 things had me laughing; 1. These are the most stock looking cars NASCAR has ever had. I guess the 50’s 60’s 70’s & 80’s don’t count
    And 2. This car was implemented as a cost cutting measure. That one really made me laugh. If it cut costs how come it still takes about 25 million to field a front running car? These teams aren’t saving money, they’re spending more in R&D to find speed.

  13. I’d like to see the Cup, Xfinity & trucks run all at once, maybe on a road course. That could be fun

  14. Rob. wrote, “And 2. This car was implemented as a cost cutting measure. That one really made me laugh. If it cut costs how come it still takes about 25 million to field a front running car? These teams aren’t saving money, they’re spending more in R&D to find speed.”

    Extremely true. The cost to built and prepare a car is absolutely trivial. Look what it costs to get a new Modified car ready to for the track… maybe $75k, including the engine, ready to go, depending on the options and fancy parts. A Cup car is not significantly or materially much more. The cost in running a team is the people, and all the departments… especially the marketing, sales, and sponsor acquisition people… lots and lots of them. How else would these teams have multiple aircraft, helicopters, biz-jets, million dollar coaches, etc.?

    A couple years ago, NASCAR started handing out their standard air guns for pit stops because the millions of dollars that some teams were spending on air gun R&D, and most teams could not afford it.

    There was a Cup car on display in town many years ago, and the crew was telling people back then it takes about $20 million to fund a Cup car for a season. That was about 15-20 years ago.

    I happen to know a fabricator in the garage of one of the top powerhouse Cup/Xfinity teams, he builds the cars you see on TV, and he is not wealthy at all.

  15. Daytona 500 viewership

    2013: 16.65M
    2015: 13.36
    2016: 11.36
    2017: 11.92
    2018: 9.3
    2019: 9.17
    2022: 8.9

  16. FWIW, Mr. Cindric has a serious bloodline. Dad is president of Penske racing, and has crew chief’d IndyCar championships for Will Power and Josef Newgarden. So much for grassroots development…

  17. Doug
    A telling stat.
    Got a gut feeling, that the “vested” followers of the sport know the deal, and have all along. Even a colosseum cant change that. Jmo.

  18. I was thinking the audience has stabilized to some degree.
    Tell you what I know about CUP……….zilch! I know I liked the coliseum deal. After the pizza was gone and my beer limit reached at the annual family Daytona 500 gathering I went home.
    Listening to Shawn on Unmuffled and reading the great commentary here I learned way more then watching the race. You all seem pretty engaged and that’s great to see.
    I’m following Bobf’s lead. I too want to see other venues and especially the shorties. The new cars are built to bang and hold up so hoping that encourages some real short track racing. I know, I know you want clean competitive race but I don’t. I want banging, a lot of it and temper flaring.
    Will the Next Gen car even the competition to some degree? Skeptics say no. Big money can find the grey areas to exploit the smaller teams can’t. I’m hoping the Stenhouse appearance at the front of the 500 toward the end of the race indicates that just maybe the cars are just a tad more equal.

  19. I’m with ya. I too like the beating and banging, and we will see how that translates moving forward. The only exception of that beating and banging Id rather not see is in the restrictor plate tracks. Just way too much risk at some point. Im gonna skip the pre race hype from now on though, its over the top for this old school-fan. Ill be DVR only, and fast forward through commercials and stupid stuff. Might be a couple of days for me to catch up with you guys though. Ill have to be careful opening Raceday ct till i watch race though, as recap is usually posted here next day. On to California!

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