NASCAR Xfinity Series Season Review - No. 22 Ford Team

December 30, 2020

When the green flag waved on the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) season in February at the “World Center of Racing” in Daytona Fla., Team Penske was poised to build on the momentum from a successful 2019 campaign. Coming off a season that produced two series victories and a championship-contending run for driver Austin Cindric that saw him finish sixth in the series standings, the No. 22 Ford Mustang team had high hopes for 2020. However, at the beginning of March, NASCAR had to put the breaks on its season as racing dealt with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the rest of the world.

Following a seven-week hiatus, Team Penske’s NXS team rose to meet the challenges of the historic and unprecedented 2020 season. Overcoming adversity and many challenges along the way, Cindric and the No. 22 Ford team proved its mettle time and time again to earn the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship.

Cindric began the 33-race season with a 25th-place finish at Daytona International Raceway, followed by two podium results with a second-place run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a third-place effort at Auto Club Speedway, The No. 22 team then secured an eighth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway to get off to solid start in 2020. While the racing engines fell silent after Phoenix, Cindric tried to keep his skills sharp and fans engaged by participating in several virtual racing events in different series including NASCAR, Australian Supercars and in IMSA sports cars.

The Xfinity Series returned to action on May 21st at Darlington Raceway but to ensure the safety of everyone, NASCAR determined that no fans would initially attend its races and there would be no practice or qualifying sessions for the competitors. Cindric posted a fourth-place finish in the first race back and the No. 22 Ford Mustang team was happy to get back on track resume the 2020 season safely. Led by crew cheif Brian Wilson, the No. 22 squad made the most of its opportunities, as the team prepared race-winning cars that arrived at each event with good speed right off the race hauler. Over the balance of the 2020 season, Cindric and the No. 22 Ford Mustang team recorded a season-best six victories, 19 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 results over 33 race starts, the most among all of the Championship 4 contenders.

Cindric showed promise, progression and patience throughout the season as he matured and developed into a series champion. 

The 22-year-old racer and the No. 22 team began to shift their season into high gear in July when Cindric became just the second driver in NXS history to produce five victories in six races. Cindric’s record streak included a sweep of the doubleheader weekend at Kentucky Speedway, a victory at Texas Motor Speedway, a second-place run at Kansas followed by back-to- back wins at Road America and a triumph in the inaugural road course race at Daytona International. Cindric’s victory at Daytona on August 15th marked Team Penske's 200th NASCAR win.

Cindric also produced a career-best of 947 laps led in the No. 22 Ford and 11 stage wins in 2020. The young driver won the NXS regular season championship to become the first Team Penske driver to earn the title under the new series points system. Cindric delivered a consistent and productive playoff run to earn a spot in the NXS Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

In his 100th Xfinity Series career start, Cindric dominated the championship race as he won Stage 2, and led 72 laps in all. He and the No. 22 team earned the title behind a clutch finish to the race that saw Wilson call for fresh tires during a late stop that allowed Cindric to outrace his competitors in overtime to claim his eighth career series victory and his first Xfinity Series championship.

“I finally learned how to race a little better, that’s for certain," said Cindric of the 2020 season. "When I started racing Bandolero and Legends cars I got a lot tougher because I wasn’t very good.  It’s not about where you start, it’s how you figure it out along the way. I’m very fortunate that I have parents, and a team, that believes in me. This season we have grown as a team, and me as a driver and it’s awesome to get everyone a championship in NASCAR, and to be a champion in NASCAR. I am excited to have the opportunity to defend my title and continue my development with Team Penske.”

After a season of growth and achievement in 2020, the stage is set for Team Penske to produce another strong title run in 2021. Cindric will return to continue his development behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford Mustang in the Xfinity Series next season before earning the opportunity to race the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022.