Inside the Emotions of a NASCAR Championship

December 7, 2020

"Penske Material" provides an inside look at some of the personalities, stories and moments that make Team Penske so unique.

For the Team Penske No. 22 Ford Mustang team winning the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) championship meant overcoming adversity, consistently preparing the best and fastest racecars, and producing solid teamwork and strong leadership over the course of 33 weekends. For many members of the No. 22 team, winning a NASCAR title also represented the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

On Saturday, November 7, 2020 Austin Cindric and the No. 22 Ford Mustang team completed an unforgettable and unparalleled season by capturing the NXS crown at Phoenix Raceway. Cindric’s last-lap pass put him in position to secure his eighth career NXS victory and first series title in 100 career series starts.

The championship pursuit for the team came down to the final three miles of the season at Phoenix. Cindric, and crew chief Brian Wilson made the decision to pit from the lead when the caution was displayed with three laps remaining in the race. The four fresh tires on the No. 22 made the difference in the final sprint to the finish as Cindric squeezed between race leader and fellow title contender Justin Allgaier and rival Noah Gragson on the race restart and get to the front to bring home the win and the title.

For Cindric, the 22-year-old Mooresville, N.C. native, the performance this season was the culmination of a total team effort. “Given how important this race was for me and my team, I was happy to be racing for a championship. I got to drive my ass off and put this Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang in Victory Lane,” said the rising star racer after securing the 39th championship in team history. “I’m speechless. I can’t believe it. It was an amazing team effort that I’m pretty humbled by for sure.”

Cindric was not the only one overcome with emotions during the championship run by the No. 22 team, comprised of both veterans and racing rookies. Whether a team member was celebrating their sixth championship or their first, winning the 2020 title was special to everyone on Team Penske’s Xfinity Series program, for a number of different reasons.


Jefferson Hodges, NXS Team Manager
Hometown: Williamsburg, Virginia

“During the last restart I was glad Brian [Wilson] and I had watched the truck race the night before. When Austin took the lead for the final time, I knew that was where we belonged and when AC took the lead the final time the only way we wouldn’t get it was to wreck. After he crossed the finish line I felt relieved. We had our eye on the championship race since we walked into the garage at Daytona in February.  We set goals and checked every box. We were able to clinch the regular season championship but played it smart throughout the entire playoffs to ensure we got to the championship race. It was important to finish what we had started and to prove the five races we won mid-season were not a fluke.  We had a plan, we knew what the plan was and we executed.  It was a very proud moment for our team.”  

Brian Wilson, NXS Crew Chief
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

“This is the culmination of many years of hard work and the incredible support by everyone at Team Penske. Effort certainly equals results. With the speed we were able to unload with, the turning point of the race happened prior to arriving in Phoenix and with the shop building a new chassis. Next, the aero group provided a list of updates and the shop responded by executing on those updates. Finally, our road crew did an amazing job finding every detail in order to unload as close as we did. During the last restart I was hoping that Austin chose the right lane to restart in! When he took the lead with one lap to go, I thought about all the hard work to get to this point by Austin and the team. We started working together in ARCA during the 2016 season, and it all came together at the perfect time.”

Matt Mote, NXS Race Engineer
Hometown: Hope, Indiana  

“Honestly, I felt the race would be decided early and luckily, we unloaded close and car seemed to get stronger during the long run. The truck race had a very similar scenario play out the night before and we got to see how important tires were. But we didn’t know how the restart was going to shake out, and just hoped we could make it out clean and not wreck. When AC passed Noah for the win it was definitely a surreal moment and so hard to put into words. I have always looked up to champions and now somehow, I am one of them. It definitely makes you reflect on all of your experiences leading up to a moment like this.”

Tommy Chandler, NXS Engine Tuner
Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky

“We took control early in the race, causing everybody to do something different to beat us. Ultimately that’s what happened with the No. 7 of Allgaier, taking his final set of tires with 30 to go. That move ultimately was his downfall and worked to our advantage. But I was worried about the No. 9 on the final restart. He had nothing to win or lose and he was a teammate of the 7, but AC was able to clear both of them and win the championship. This is my sixth title, each special and have different meanings, but seeing all the young guys winning their first championship made this day more exciting than I remember the others being. Dreams were achieved on this night for many and being a part of that is special.”

Cody Sauls, NXS Car Chief
Hometown: Hampton South Carolina  

“It’s hard to put a year’s effort into one race. Our goal all year was to make the Championship 4. This was a new car with a different set up than we are used to running. You want to think it is better, but you don’t know until you hit the track, and this year without practice made it more important to get it right. About 3-5 laps into the race I saw how Austin was able to hold the bottom and commit to the gas in dirty air. Seeing that I knew we had a car that could contend for the win but so many things can happen out of your control. I am thankful it turned out the way it did. I was a lot calmer that I would have ever expected to be. I guess in disbelief, but I also thought ‘mission accomplished.’ With the tools, partners and resources we have at Team Penske, we are expected to compete at a high level and the highest is holding the championship trophy!”

Cody Maynard, Mechanic
Hometown: Seymour, Indiana

“When (Brian) Wilson made the call to stay out on old tires and the No. 7 pitted, we were able to drive around him and pull away so I knew we had a fast car. I kept thinking ‘keep the nose clean and hit your marks, no mistakes.’ Winning this championship was an experience like no other. With the year 2020 has been, it made the season much different. We had no practice, limited crews and different work hours and we were still able to deliver fast, race winning cars week in and week out. It really shows the effort and drive we all had. It’s still pretty unreal but amazing. I am very thankful to be a part of a championship winning team and organization working alongside some of the best people.”

Josh Chaney, Mechanic
Hometown: Mount Airy, North Carolina

“I knew we had the car to beat and Austin would be on the wheel. I did not expect us to be so dominant. Once they threw the green flag, Austin showed patience and speed. But when the last caution flew, I was a nervous wreck. I knew the plan but, on a restart, anything can happen.  Once the pit stops cycled and we were shown to restart third I was confident that with Austin on fresh tires and much older tires in front of him, they didn’t have a chance. It took me a minute to realize we had won the race.  With us pitted on the backstretch all I could see was Austin coming by in front of the No. 7, I knew that’s all we needed.  I was on the wall trying to listen and all I remember was (spotter) Coleman (Pressley) yelling ‘clear’ and I lost it!  This was my sixth career championship across all three NASCAR series, but this was by far the most memorable. The team worked so well together.  There was so much trust between everyone and the driver.  We didn’t just fall into a championship. We went out and earned it.  We put together a great year with six wins and more top fives than any other driver.  This championship has given me the most feelings of accomplishment than any of the others. The only thing that will beat this one is to back it up next year!”

Jared Callihan, No. 22 Mechanic
Hometown: Alum Bank, Pennsylvania

“We unloaded and started the race so well we knew that we had a chance from the beginning. All the hard work everybody put in throughout the year paid off. Winning the championship can easily be described by one of Roger Penske’s favorite sayings “Effort equals results.” Everybody at the shop and all the road crew put in their best work on these cars from the beginning of the year and winning this championship shows that all the hard work we put into prepping these cars and performing at the racetrack does not go unrewarded.”

Jim Medaglia, No. 22 Truck Driver
Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania

“After being in this industry for 30+ years, working behind the scenes and now for the number one motorsports team in the world is humbling. What an awesome experience to win a championship with this team. It truly brings my whole career to the forefront and makes all the sacrifices well with it. Looking forward to more.”

Eric Moyer, No. 22 Truck Driver
Hometown: Schaeffertown, Pennsylvania

“I was really thankful we had a set of tires for the last restart and hoping we would use them. After Austin took the lead for the final time, I was praying there wouldn’t be another caution and it played out in our favor! I’ve always wanted to win a championship and this one is my first in any series. I believe that’s everyone’s goal – to win a championship. Austin and the entire team made this a season unforgettable and I am very proud to be part of it.”


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