Austin Cindric knew from a young age that he wanted to be a racecar driver. From as early as he could remember, numerous family vacations and weekends were spent watching IndyCar and NASCAR races, so it came to no one’s surprise that he fell in love with the sport.

Now, as a 24-year-old competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Austin has already won the Daytona 500 and been named the 2022 Rookie of the Year. To date, his career accomplishments and continued perseverance in the sport have solidified him as a force to be reckoned with in the sport.

Quaker State spoke with Austin Cindric to learn more about how he got his start in motorsports, and how he’s preparing in the off-season to drive his career to the next level.

QUAKER STATE: How did your motorsports career begin?

CINDRIC: I had always seen IndyCar and NASCAR races where I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. I told my parents that I wanted to race full-time, and that summer, I went to the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Before then, I had always seen professional drivers race against each other there, but that was the first time I got to see kids my own age competing. So, by the end of that summer in high school, I was driving on my own at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

QUAKER STATE: Are there any professional drivers that you look up to?

CINDRIC: The NASCAR driver that I personally knew when I first started was Sam Hornish Jr., who had raced for Team Penske’s IndyCar team, and I really admired him. This was right around the time that I started driving Bandoleros, the NASCAR grassroots car, so I chose to use No. 77 throughout my early years in racing.

QUAKER STATE: How did it feel to start your rookie year with a Daytona 500 win?

CINDRIC: Daytona 500 is interesting because it’s the start of our season, so it was my first race in the new car. Combined with a sellout crowd that weekend, the No. 2 car never winning the 500, it being Roger Penske’s birthday, and a few teammates trying to win for years, it was the best day of my life. Now we have to do it again, otherwise, I’ve peaked at 23 years old!

QUAKER STATE: What does it mean to be named Rookie of the Year?

CINDRIC: Being named Rookie of the Year is special, it means that all your hard work race after race has been recognized.

Placing in a rookie season is obviously the goal, it’s really your only form of measurement to your competitors on the challenges that you face, like competing with a new car and the changes within the industry. Ultimately, there was a lot of newness for me, but I felt like the mission was accomplished at the end of the day.

It was great to be able to start out on the right foot in the cup series for my career, but I certainly want to build off it in the future.

QUAKER STATE: What are your goals for the 2023 NASCAR season?

CINDRIC: For 2023 I am looking to build off what I started in my rookie season this past year. I started out with a new car and was working with a new group of people, but now I want to see how I can take that to the next level now that I am more comfortable, how I can push myself for contention for Top 5s and running up front more often. As a championship organization, Team Penske really expects you to succeed, so it’s nice to know that I have great teammates like Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, and other members of the team who I can bounce ideas off of.

QUAKER STATE: Which track/race are you most looking forward to during the 2023 season?

CINDRIC: The Coca-Cola 600 race was one that surprised me as a race that I enjoyed. I am looking forward to that race and track again.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is the first racetrack that I drove at as a kid, so it felt like the track was a bit evil to me this year. It was a race that I thought we had a good shot at, but when I got a flat tire, that was that. It’s the longest race of the season and ended up being the longest race ever in NASCAR history. I was at home and in my pajamas before the end of the second stage! So, I think we have some unfinished business there for next year’s race.

QUAKER STATE: Do you have a typical pre-race routine that helps to ‘energize your engine’ before hitting the track?

CINDRIC: Going to Olive Garden for dinner the night before a race is my pre-race ritual. Good Italian food before a race energizes me because you can’t go wrong with some carbs and protein before you compete. I start with the breadsticks, then get a salad and chicken parmigiana, but if I’m feeling good, I’ll also go for the breadsticks and alfredo sauce to dip.

QUAKER STATE: How do you like to celebrate a race win?

CINDRIC: The best part is embracing my team and celebrating with them after. For Daytona, for example, we all got Steak ‘n Shake. Racing is a team sport, so being able to do that always gives me the most satisfaction.

QUAKER STATE: What is your dream car? Why?

CINDRIC: I love so many different types of cars, but it’s hard to beat the Shelby 350 that I have now. I’m also working on a project now that I guess you could call my “dream car” because it’s a Volvo Station wagon that I’m putting a 5-liter V8 from a Ford Mustang in, which is completely unique to me. I’ve done all the work, so that’ll be my dream car when it’s all said and done.

QUAKER STATE: What advice would you give to drivers who aspire to be where you are one day?

CINDRIC: Be open-minded and take every chance you get. Racing is a very complex sport, it’s not like a stick and ball sport where there is a set way to things. There’s no correct model for driver development. I think I’m a perfect example of that because I’ve driven everything under the sun to make my way to the top level of North American motorsports with a completely opposite background to most of my competitors. I would also say that there aren’t a lot of second chances in racing, but live in the moment and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Austin Cindric can be found on Twitter and Instagram, and make sure to check him out during the 2023 NASCAR season!