NASCAR Cup starters shine on the bumpy Indy road course race

NASCAR Cup starters shine on the bumpy Indy road course race


While a number of series veterans out-tracked each other or attempted four- and five-wide moves to turn No. 1, some young drivers worked their way out of trouble and finished inside the top-five.

After NASCAR penalized Ross Chastain for cutting the course and dropped him to 27th, rookies Austin Cindrich, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland were second through fourth.

It was a career-best finish for Burton and Gilliland, and Cindrich won the 2022 season-opening Daytona 500.

Sunday’s race marked the second time in series history (other than the first race) that three starters finished in the top-five. The first time was in 1999 at Pocono Raceway.

“There were a few things I was good at, but I needed the whole track to do it and I struggled a little bit, maybe a little less than I expected today, but those restarts, survival, holy crap,” Cindrich, 23, said.

“All I can say is ‘Wow’. There’s no other sport, no other form of racing, where you can get that.

Burton, who finished 10th in Atlanta three weeks ago, didn’t expect to finish third this weekend.

A lot of attacks on the last restart and putting myself in a good position. “It was at the end of the day – really, we weren’t doing our job when the race started,” he said. “We did not score well.

“I made a mistake, spun, got into (Cole) Custer. Halfway through the race we got really frustrated and put our heads down, got in, got a tire and started picking up the guys and restarted in a good position to get more.

We are proud of our team for persevering through those difficult times.

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21-year-old Burton’s Sunday finish doesn’t mean a podium finish every week is possible, but he and his No. 21 Wood Brothers team will certainly try.

“We have to build top-10s and top-fives more often,” he said. “That was our original plan at the beginning of the year. It was, ‘We’re nobody in the Cup Series right now.’

“Everybody in this series has won Xfinity Series races, Truck Series races. They are all very good. You didn’t do anything special, so you’ll have to check when you get here.”

A strong demonstration of FRM

Gilliland’s fourth-place finish was part of a strong weekend for Front Row Motorsports. Teammate Michael McDowell showed speed throughout the weekend, finishing seventh and eighth.

“This rookie season was tough. Cup series are tough. I learned that,” Gilliland, 22, said. “It’s easy to give up and that’s one thing. You have confidence coming into the Cup series, but you lose quickly.

“That’s really been our best start to the weekend, so hopefully that’s something we can build on. To me, that’s a big confidence boost.

“Road course racing is tough, too. I’ve always liked it, but it’s not so much this year, especially the first time here in Indianapolis. That’s great.”

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