DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Based on experience alone, Austin Cindric figured he’d win a Rolex 24 at Daytona watch long before he’d earn a diamond-encrusted Daytona 500 ring.
He was wrong.
Cindric won the Daytona 500 last year to open his NASCAR Cup Series rookie season with the biggest win of his career. It was a bit surreal since the bulk of his time at Daytona International Speedway had been either hanging around Roger Penske’s sports car team or driving in the Rolex 24 and its support races.
Cindric’s start to this year is his fifth appearance in the Rolex 24 this weekend with a lineup full of winners in the LMP2 class. He’s hoping the Saturday into Sunday race will earn him his first Rolex.
“I’ve been coming to Daytona a lot longer for this race (Rolex 24) than I have for the (Daytona) 500 or NASCAR Speedweeks,” Cindric said. “However long it takes, I want to win this race. It’s why I put so much work in, it’s why I don’t care about sacrificing the last two weeks of my offseason, because it’s something I’m really passionate about and I am not passionate about just doing the event – I want to go win it.”
The No. 51 Rick Ware Racing in the LMP2 class is comprised of IndyCar driver Devlin DeFrancesco and sports car driver Eric Lux, who were both part of the class-winning car a year ago with IndyCar stars Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward.
The fourth driver is Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi who on Tuesday was confirmed as the reserve driver for Haas F1 for a fifth consecutive season.
Cindric, the only full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver in the field, is trying to join Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon as winners of both the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24. That goal is why he chose the Ware entry for this year’s race.
“I’m not going to do something or be part of something I don’t think has the legs to be able to do it and between the lineup and the experience a lot of the team guys have, I think this has that potential,” Cindric said.
“And it’s fun because I feel this lineup itself represents what makes this event fun for everybody. You’ve got one guy from NASCAR, one guy from Formula One, one guy whose IMSA, one guy from IndyCar and that’s what this event is all about, it’s a coming together of the people and individuals of motorsports.”