Austin Sendrick may be the biggest surprise to reach the second round of the NASCAR Qualifiers after his first three wild post-season races, but now he may be in a position to be the biggest surprise again in round two.
Cendric was the only rookie player to qualify for the 2022 qualifiers and also the first driver to do so. He won the season-opening Daytona 500 and hasn’t really had another stress-filled race since then.
He held enough of the points barrier to avoid falling off the qualifying grid as the leaderboard was filled with new winner after new winner, and opened his first season as the 14th seed in the 16-driver match arena.
That means it was three points below the elimination line 12, as four drivers would be eliminated from competing for the championship after the first round of three races.
Cindric qualified well for all three of the first round races, starting with the top ten of the three. He managed to finish 16th in the opening game at Darlington Raceway but was still two points behind the cut-off line.
Twelfth place the following week at Kansas Speedway earned two points over Kyle Busch on the good side of the cut line as the Cup series headed to the treacherous Bristol Motor Speedway for a first-round elimination race.
Austin Cendrick had anything but a clean race in Bristol
Cendrick started the ninth race, but tire problems soon became the dominant story in Saturday night’s event. Several drivers, especially those who drive Ford cars, experienced blown tires early in the race, and Cendric was the first among them on lap 85 of the 500 lap race.
The No. 2 Ford has a flat tire right front, so Cendrick brought the car into a pothole for repair despite there being no warning flag for his accident.
Cindric dropped several laps and finished the first stage in 35th out of 36 cars, well behind the points tally. In the end, he had another right front tire failure and was involved in a 12-car crash early in the final stage, but then the night started to turn in his favour.
Bosch had an engine failure on lap 269. Cendrick ended up running in the back of Bosch’s #18 at that point, but was able to slowly work his way up to 20th and overturn Bosch by two points to reach round two. Although the race finished seven laps behind the leaderboard.
“Just a perfect storm in some ways,” Cendrick said after the race. “Bristol showed us a little mercy tonight. Not a very great night for Team Penske, so I’m so glad we all made it through the next round. Sure, a tense evening. I’m ready (to reset).”
Cindric should be optimistic about going ahead with the NASCAR qualifiers
Cendrick will battle it out again in the second round. He opened Round 12 of three races among the 12 drivers who qualified for the final and four points behind the cut-off line for eighth.
However, two of his best track types complete this round, which could allow him to shock the sport once again and still have a championship chance in his first full-time Cup Series campaign.
After the 500-mile race at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway opens the Tour, the series will head to the 2.66-mile Talladega Super Speedway.
Talladega is one of the two ultra-high trails of 2.5 miles or more on the NASCAR schedule. the other? Daytona International Speedway, where Cendrick scored his first and only Cup Series win in February.
Despite this, Talladega is still a wild race. Anyone can get involved in a wreck not of their own making at any time. It happened in the spring race in Talladega when Cendrick was part of a nine-car wreck and finished 21st. But Cendric will still have a decent place to finish the second round, even if Talladega doesn’t go well.
Round 12 is coming to a close in Charlotte Roval, and Cendrick is excelling on the road courses.
His final average of 13.4 in the highway races of the Eight Cup Series ranked him fourth among active drivers, and five of nine of the top 10 races of his career have raced on the road.
Cindric has also captured five of his 13 career Xfinity Series wins on the road courses. This will be his first race in the Cup Series at the Roval, but he has taken the lead and three times in the four Xfinity Series he begins plotting the road track inside Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Cendrick’s path to the quarter-finals probably won’t be easy, but he has set himself up to be more of a black horse pick in the second round than he was in the first.
Statistics provided by Racing Reference
Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @Sportscasting19 And subscribe to our YouTube channel.
RELATED: Daytona 500 win Austin Cendrick actually floods his rookie season in the NASCAR Cup Series