The 22nd NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, which was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, witnessed some of the top performances from rookie drivers. All three rookies of the season finished in the top five for the second time in the Cup Series’ history, with Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton, and Todd Gilliland finishing in P2, P3, and P4 respectively.
The result was a career-best for Burton and Gilliland and the first top-five finish for both the young drivers in the Cup Series. Meanwhile, Cindric earned his best finish of the season since winning the season-opening Daytona 500.
After achieving their career-best finishes, all three Ford drivers celebrated their results with handshakes on Indy’s pit road and reacted to their top-five finishes after the conclusion of the race.
During the post-race interview, Austin Cindric admitted that he was good at a few things but wanted to do it throughout the race track. He went on to say that he struggled a bit, maybe a little less than he expected, but the restarts and survival were poor.
“There were a few things I was good at, but I needed the whole track to do it and I kind of struggled a bit, probably a little lower than my expectations were today, but those restarts, survival, holy crap. All I can say is ‘wow.’ There’s no other sport, no other form of racing other than NASCAR that you’re going to get that.”
Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland talk about their first top-five performance at NASCAR’s Indy race
It took multiple nervy restarts and overtime, but Harrison Burton survived a chaotic Sunday race to earn his career's first top-five finish. Despite finishing in P3, he didn’t pick last weekend’s performance as his best career finish. He said:
“Yeah, we’ll take it. Wouldn’t have picked this weekend to get my best career finish so far. Was kind of pretty upset midway through the race, and then just got our heads down, came in, got tires and started picking guys off and restarted in a good spot to kind of go get some more. It’s just exciting.”
Front Row Motorsports driver Todd Gilliland admitted that the IMS outing was exciting, but the rookie season has been tough so far. He had a great last weekend in Indianapolis, where he marked his best qualifying effort, starting from P9 to finishing the race at P4.
“It’s just really exciting. This rookie season has been really tough. The Cup Series is hard. I’ve learned that. That’s really our best weekend start to finish by far, so hopefully that’s just something to build on."
The first time three NASCAR Cup Series rookies crossed the finish line in the top five was in July 1994 at Pocono Raceway. Ward Burton, Joe Nemechek, and Jeff Burton took P2, P3, and P4 at the Miller Genuine Draft 500 to achieve this feat.