Austin Cindric finishes 5th as NASCAR representative in Rolex 24

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Credit: Richard Dole/LAT Images

NASCAR‘s presence at the 2022 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona was relatively limited compared to previous years as full-time Cup Series drivers were busy gearing up for the arrival of the Next Gen car. The lone exception was Austin Cindric, who was the only active national series driver to run the prestigious endurance race. The Cup Series rookie and his #15 WeatherTech Racing/Proton Competition team finished fifth in the GTD Pro class and twenty-third overall.

Cindric, making his Rolex 24 début, drove the #15 Mercedes-AMG GT3 alongside Patrick Assenheimer and Dirk Müller. He began the race in the car and started third. Seven hours in and a few driver swaps later, he spun in the West Horseshoe but avoided further damage. Cindric’s next final stint came during the graveyard shift, where he ran third in the class, before he closed it out by finishing fifth. He spent the most time on track of the trio with eight hours, forty-four minutes, and fifteen seconds.

P5, best in AMG in the GT field, a smile on my face, and a tired body,” Cindric tweeted. “Thanks @RaceWeatherTech (WeatherTech Racing), @muellerdirk, Patrick, and the whole team. Love this race.”

While Cindric was the only active Cup regular, series part-timer James Davison was in the #32 GTD for Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports as a late replacement for Guy Cosmo. Sharing the car with occasional NASCAR road ringer Mike Skeen, Scott Andrews, and Stevan McAleer, Davison’s stint began five hours in. In his first IMSA start since 2017, he recorded slightly over five hours of track time, the fewest of the quartet. The #32 finished third in class.

Although no longer a NASCAR regular and is instead grouped with the twelve NTT IndyCar Series drivers, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson watched as his #48 Ally Cadillac DPi got off to a hot start with Kamui Kobayashi. Unfortunately for Johnson, his late-night stint ended in disaster when contact with the #15 of Assenheimer resulted in the #48 spinning and substantial damage to the rear suspension. The team was able to restore the car and return it to the race, though multiple laps down, and placed fifth in DPi and twenty-two laps down.

Credit: Brett Farmer/LAT Images

Beyond Cindric, Davison, and Johnson, any other drivers with NASCAR experience were road ringers. For instance, among Cindric’s GTD Pro opponents was Jack Hawksworth, who made a one-off Xfinity Series road start, driving for VasserSullivan. Ben Barnicoat and Kyle Kirkwood opened the race in the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 first, but Hawksworth had the most track time at eight hours, twelve minutes, and fifty-five minutes (Barnicoat and Kirkwood did not exceed 7:45) and took the checkered flag one position ahead of Cindric.

A pair of recent ringers in Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly finished runner-up in GTD for Magnus Racing alongside Jonathan Adam and John Potter. Lally, the 2011 Cup Series Rookie of the Year, was the only driver of the four to exceed seven total hours at 7:06:14 and finished the race. Pumpelly, a two-time Xfinity road racer, recorded six hours, twenty-one minutes, and thirty seconds in three stints. Further back in the class in tenth was the #99 Porsche 911 GT3R of Team Hardpoint driven by Katherine Legge, the only female driver in the race who ran four Xfinity races in 2018. Legge shared the #99 with Nick Boulle, Rob Ferriol, and Stefan Wilson, during which she had three runs including the penultimate stint. She totalled five hours, twelve minutes, thirty-three seconds.

One-time Xfinity racer Earl Bamber and his #02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi (fittingly a former NASCAR team) finished a spot behind Johnson’s #48.

In LMP3, former Camping World Truck Series race winner and two-time Rolex 24 class champion Colin Braun and his CORE Autosport team finished third in class. Driving the #54 Ligier JS P230 alongside Jon Bennett, Nic Jonsson, and George Kurtz, Braun was behind the wheel the longest at six hours, thirty-six minutes, forty-two seconds. Bennett started the race while Braun finished it out by running the final two hours.

The LMP2 of occasional Cup ringer and defending class winner Kyle Tilley‘s Era Motorsport was involved an early wreck while being piloted by Dwight Merriman, which saw a corner worker get hit by the #18 Oreca 07 but was awake and stable when he was taken to hospital. Despite the setback, the team returned and continued to race before gear failures resulted in retirement with twenty-seven minutes left. Kenny Habul, starter of fifteen Xfinity road races, completed 101 laps before being involved in a massive crash that ended his race after four hours.

The Rolex 24 might have only featured one full-time NASCAR driver, but Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge saw PF Racing field a quartet of Ford drivers including Cindric. Sharing the #41 with fellow Cup rookie Harrison Burton, Cindric finished ninth overall in the race, while the team’s #42 placed twenty-fourth with 2021 Cup Rookie of the Year Chase Briscoe and Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan.

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About author
Justin is a History major at San Jose State University and lifelong racing fan who has worked for The Checkered Flag since 2018. His coverage mainly focuses on NASCAR, the Stadium Super Trucks, and off-road series like Extreme E and SCORE International. He also dabbles in other disciplines such as IndyCar, rallycross, and sports cars.
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