Austin Cindric is set to move straight to Team Penske’s NASCAR Cup Series team for the 2022 season as opposed to moving to Wood Brothers Racing.
Last October, it was announced that Matt DiBenedetto would be sticking with Wood Brothers Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season but that he would be replaced by Austin Cindric behind the wheel of the #21 Ford ahead of the 2022 campaign.
The initial plan was for Cindric, who competes for Team Penske in the Xfinity Series, to join the Team Penske-affiliated Wood Brothers Racing team for the 2021 season, but DiBenedetto was able to change their minds with a string of solid performances late in the 2020 season.
However, Cindric will not drive the #21 Ford next year after all.
With Brad Keselowski set to make the move to Roush Fenway Racing as not only a driver but as a co-owner, the #2 Ford was without a confirmed driver for the 2022 season. Now that driver has been confirmed as Cindric.
Given Keselowski’s status as a pending free agent for 2022 entering the 2021 season, this was always seen as an option. Cindric is the reigning Xfinity Series champion and the current championship leader, and he has competed in select races for Team Penske’s Cup Series team this season.
The team feel that he is ready to take the step up to their Cup Series program full-time without spending any time competing at Wood Brothers Racing.
Here is what Roger Penske had to say about Cindric driving the #2 Ford next year.
“Austin is a champion and has proven his abilities both on and off the track. The Cup Series is a big step for any rookie but making this move now, in conjunction with the introduction of the new NextGen car, makes sense. He has gained valuable experience this year competing in a handful of races at the Cup level and he has shown that he belongs out there.”
Here is what Cindric had to add.
“Throughout my NASCAR career, I’ve grown a lot as a driver and an individual. There are so many individuals within the walls of Team Penske that have elevated me to a level that matches this opportunity. The support towards my development from Roger, Team Penske, and all of our partners has been the leading factor towards race wins and a championship.
“The No. 2 car is iconic to this sport and is a number that represents the foundation of this team. It is a great honor and a great responsibility to continue that role. As 2022 gets closer, I am excited to embrace that. Until then, my focus remains on winning another Xfinity Series Championship.”
Ryan Blaney is set to return behind the wheel of the #12 Ford while Joey Logano is set to return behind the wheel of the #22 Ford, so the addition of Cindric solidifies Team Penske’s three-car lineup for next year.
However, this doesn’t mean that DiBenedetto will be back behind the wheel of the #21 Ford. Harrison Burton, who is currently competing for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, is set to replace DiBenedetto next year instead, leaving the 29-year-old Grass Valley, California native without a ride.