LEXINGTON -- Austin Cindric feels like he is coming home this weekend.
Cindric scored his first Xfinity Series win Saturday at Watkins Glen International in the Zippo 200, besting the field on the famed 2.45-mile permanent road course in central New York.
The win, which included a last-lap pass of veteran AJ Allmendinger, was Cindric’s first in 54 career starts and locks him into the Xfinity Series playoff field.
The Columbus-native, now fifth in the series point standings, couldn't pick a better time to come home to a track he loved prowling around as a boy.
"Whenever we got off for summer break, we would go visit my grandma for a couple of weeks and go to the Indy Car races," Cindric said during a phone interview this week from his home in Mooresville, N.C.
"That family connection makes Mid-Ohio personally special for me. It's so open and fans have so much access," he said.
FAST START, BAD FINISH: Cindric won the pole at last year's Xfinity Series race, turning a fast lap of 96.388. He then led 59 of the race's 75 laps.
Unfortunately for Cindric, Justin Allgaier passed Cindric with three laps to go after pitting for four new tires on the race's final caution flag five laps earlier.
Cindric ultimately finished second, though he said the win could have been his. Unlike some of the open-wheel racing that takes place at Mid-Ohio, there is plenty of bumping and banging when the NASCAR series comes to north central Ohio.
"I had every opportunity to shove him off the track, but I didn't need the win that bad," he said after the race.
Cindric will push to get his Team Penske No. 22 MoneyLion Ford back to the front when qualifying begins on Friday for Saturday's race.
"Last year, it's not fair to say we got robbed, but we had one of the fastest cars all weekend. We will be looking for redemption," Cindric said.
"Mid-Ohio almost races like a short course for us. There is plenty of opportunity for side-by-side racing, giving each other the bumper.
"I know Scott (Dixon) and Felix (Rosenqvist) put on a great show a couple of weeks ago (during the NTT IndyCar Series Honda 200). I hope we can put on as good a show, if not better," Cindric said.
VERSATILE RACER: Despite his youth, Cindric, whose father, Tim, is the president of Team Penske, literally grew up behind the wheel of a myriad variety of race cars.
After early attempts, Cindric attended the Skip Barber Racing School and gained road racing experienced. In 2013-2014, he raced in the U.S. F2000 National Championship. He also competed in Historic SportsCar Racing, winning a race in a Porsche 944.
In the years since, if a vehicle has wheels, Cindric has likely raced it, including Global RallyCross Championship Lites, IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, ARCA, Pirelli World Challenge and the NASCAR Truck Series.
Included in his checkered-flag past was a pole, victory and a track record in the Sports Car Club of American championships at Mid-Ohio in 2016.
What does his future hold?
"I have always gone where the best opportunities have taken me," Cindric said, "and the last few years, that's been stock car and sports car racing. Beggars can't be choosers and just driving a race car is hard enough.
"I think I do have one of the most versatile portfolios of any young drivers," he said.
He will get another chance to show it off this weekend back home at Mid-Ohio.