Austin Cindric takes bizarre route into Daytona 500 field

A pit road speeding penalty appeared to derail Austin Cindric’s hopes of making the Daytona 500 but all was not lost.

Cindric, the reigning Xfinity Series champion attempting to make the first Cup Series start of his career, ran well in his 150-mile qualifying race, working his way through the field to be the top finishing non-charter team.

His chance at a good finish took a big hit late in the 60-lap race when he was penalized for speeding during his green-flag pit stop. Cindric, 22, was forced to bring his No. 33 Ford down pit road for a pass-through penalty.

“First of all, I get the bonehead of the race award, speeding in the last section of pit road when I nailed everything else the whole night that I didn’t know how to do,” Cindric said after the race.

“So, my guys can all have a shot punching me wherever they want to.”

He finished 16th in the race and a lap down. But circumstances turned in his favor.

With the benefit of a big shove from Cindric, Ryan Preece just beat Ty Dillon across the finish line to claim fifth-place and became the highest finishing non-charter team.

“Once I got lined up behind (Preece), whether he knew it or not I was going to push him as hard as I could,” Cindric said. “Locked on down the back straightaway.

Preece “got him on the line by a couple hundredths. Some days, it’s your day, I guess.”

According to the rules to set the 500 field, the second spot for open teams from each duel goes to the team with the fastest qualifying lap among the remaining cars – and that was Cindric.

“I’m obviously really happy to get our Ford Mustang into the big show,” he said. “There’s a lot left for me to learn but racing on the biggest stage against the best drivers is an amazing opportunity.”

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