Daytona Beach, Florida (AP) – Roger Penske had one rule on the Daytona 500 for his drivers: don’t break each other up.
His orders were carried out on Sunday night when Austin Cindrick worked with teammate Ryan Blaney on the final laps to win the Daytona 500 in honor of Pensk’s 85th birthday.
Just a year ago, Penske riders Cindrick, Joey Lagana and Brad Keselowski crashed, fighting for victory in the last lap of the International Speedway in Dayton. It took time for the mood to thaw, as Penske clearly expressed his expectations to his drivers.
“We talked a few weeks after last year, when we were one or two and were in the fence,” Penske said. “I said,‘ Look, the best wins in the end. I think we should work together. “
“They played ball and Austin won.”
Cindric was the leader at the start of overtime on two laps with Blaney next to him. He drove Ford No. 2, the flagship of Team Penske, which was released late last season when Kesielowski left the organization, and now Kesielowski was behind him, deciding not to be beaten down by his replacement.
But Cindric changed lanes as soon as he allowed Blaney to come out in front of his teammate so the duo could unite for the last two trips on the track. Blaney made a desperate attempt to get around Cindric high, but Cindric threw a huge block that made Blaney squeeze into the outer wall.
Buba Wallace then jumped even with Cindric in the bottom lane, forcing Cindric to forget about Blaine behind and focus on defeating Wallace to the finish line.
“Oh my God. I have so many people to thank,” said a stunned Sindrik after getting out of the car and saying goodbye to the crowd of about 120,000 spectators. “First of all, Roger Penske, happy birthday! »
Cindric then remembered Blaney, who gave him the winning push but finished fourth.
“I appreciate Ryan for being a great teammate,” Sindrik said. “Obviously he wants to win this match.”
Blaine was clear about Penske’s expectations: “I wanted to try to win the race for Roger Penske. Whether it was me or another car, I did it, ”and after the race there was nothing to say about Sindrik’s block.
“I don’t know. I think congratulations to him, ”Blaine said. “You have to throw the block in this situation.”
It was the first Cup win of his career for 23-year-old Cindric, who received a raise from the Xfinity series to replace Kesielowski and run for the NASCAR rookie of the year award.
The win was the third victory in the Daytona 500 for Pensk, who also won the trophy in 2008 with Ryan Newman and in 2015 with Lagan. Ford Motor Co. won the Daytona 500 17 times, including two in a row.
Wallace finished second in the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career.
“What could be, right?” said Wallace. “Just depressed.”
The top three Ford drivers closed the top five, followed by Chase Briscoe, followed by Blaney and Arik Almirola.
Kyle Bush was sixth to join Wallace as Toyota’s only driver in the top 10. Michael McDowell was seventh, followed by David Ragan and Keselowski and finally Chase Elliott in the only Chevrolet to finish in the top 10.
Meanwhile, Sindrik presented his family with another of the crown trophies in motorsport. He is the son of Tim Sindrik, president of the Pensky racing organization, and the grandson of the deceased Jim Truman, who exhibited Bobby Rahal’s winning car at the 1986 Indianapolis 500. Truman died of cancer 10 days after the victory at the age of 51.
Tim Sindrik watched the finish from the suite high above the speedway along with Penske and other team leaders. Penske said his longtime boss finally showed some emotion during overtime.
“I always joke with him, saying, ‘You need to be a little more excited.’ Well, today he was very excited, ”Penske said. “He even went out of his cool, calm way. I think he said, “I’m going to really celebrate; my boy won the Daytona 500 race. ”
During the celebration of the victory track, the father said that his son’s victory is still being erased.
“In our family, we had the opportunity to test nine Indy 500s and more,” Tim Cindrick said. “But obviously there is nothing better when your children achieve their goals. For me, the most important thing is to watch your child achieve his goal together with all these people who believed in him. “
Cindric is considered the first rookie to win the Daytona 500, although Trevor Bane won in 2011 but was not eligible to claim the rookie of the year in the Cup series. Cindric made his debut in the Daytona 500 in last year’s race, which was resolved by a collision on the last lap, which brought together Cindric and his teammates Penske. All Penske cars completed last year’s fireball race.
“I just wanted one of them to win. When they came to the line, I was afraid that we would end up like last year, ”Tim Sindrik said. “I just wanted one of our guys to bring him home.”