Three Rookies Post Top-5s at Indianapolis Road Course

Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland made history at the Brickyard.


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All three NASCAR Cup Series rookies finished inside the top-five on Sunday in the Verizon 200 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

2. Austin Cindric
3. Harrison Burton
4. Todd Gilliland

Despite the unruly nature of the finish, the results were earned and not fluky either as all three had very competitive days after qualifying inside the top-13:

2. Cindric
9. Gilliland
13. Burton

Cindric was third crossing the line but Ross Chastain was penalized to the tail end of the lead lap for cutting Turn 1 on the final restart. Cindric was hoping Chastain would rough up eventual winner Tyler Reddick to give him a chance at the win.

"That was nuts, oh my gosh," Cindric said of the final two restarts. "I hope the race fans enjoyed that. Obviously, those green-white-checkers, it’s just caution out the window and everyone has fenders and bumpers to use, I guess.

"A lot to take in, a lot to handle. I’m glad we survived it all. It’s probably not the day I wanted with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang, but to come away with a good finish we’ll take it."

Cindric said ‘football’ is the only thing that could have prepared him for that kind of racing.

"I was hoping that Ross would get under (Reddick) and put him in a vulnerable position to where I could kind of put them both in a bad spot, but they just raced clean enough," Cindric said. "I was really hoping that he would kind of drive him out wide or maybe one of them to drop a wheel because I knew there was a chance the 1 could get DQ’d, but, wow."

Cindric opened the season with a victory in the Daytona 500 but has only posted three other top-5s this season so this was a positive development heading into the playoffs.

Although, he conceded, this isn’t IndyCar and they don’t give out trophies for second.

"You’ve just got to hang in there and position yourself away from the carnage," Cindric said. "I’m proud of the effort and proud to not get collected. It’s cool for Harrison to get his first top-5."

It was indeed cool for Burton and Gilliland both, as they entered this weekend 27th and 29th in the standings. It was their second and first top-10 (and 5) of the season, respectively.

Burton said he survived on Sunday.

"That’s what it was, really," Burton said. "I mean, we honestly had a bad execution day to start the race. We tried to stay out for stage points and more people stayed out than we thought and got buried there, and then I made a mistake and got into Custer. I was spun out at one point. I was all over the place.

"It was a tough day for me and then got some new tires there before the last caution and started picking guys off and just got in a good place for those restarts. That was the big thing was being on the inside for those restarts and kind of plugging the middle and missing the chaos."

Burton says he's been racing Gilliland hard every week this season, typically outside the top-25, so it was both surprising and rewarding to find each other racing again but for the win.

"I thought we might get some distance on at least the 38, but wherever he goes I go with him or vice versa," Burton said. "Every race we’re on each other’s bumper, so hopefully we both just start running top five every week and we’ll be running up there together."

Burton and Gilliland gave each other a high five after the race, as the two have been friends for the entirety of their lives, growing up the sons of Cup Series veterans Jeff Burton and David Gilliland.

"It's just really exciting," Gilliland said. "This rookie season has been really tough. The Cup Series is hard. I’ve learned that. It’s easy to give up and that’s one thing, too: You have confidence when you come to the Cup Series, but you get beat down quick.

"Even just having a ninth-place qualifying effort and just to run up front the first stage. We stayed out and got stage points and kind of had to come from the back again, but that’s what me and my crew chief was talking about. That’s really our best weekend start to finish by far, so hopefully that’s just something to build on."

Like everyone in the top-five, Gilliland was just happy to have survived the final two restarts.

"I would drive in and try to get to the guy in front of me and then I would just get pounded from the back, hit the guy in front of me, bounce off both guys to my sides," Gilliland said. "You have tunnel vision. Guys are getting spun right in front of you. You're facing somebody and then you’re past them, off in the grass and then you’re just trying to merge out and get single file as quickly as possible.

"Even right there, I was side-by-side with (Bubba Wallace). Thanks to him for racing me clean. It could have been a wreck for both of us, but, overall, I’m super happy to have survived those last few restarts and then obviously to put myself in position to capitalize on those restarts."

This is only the second time in NASCAR Cup Series history that three rookies have finished inside the top-five. The first occurred in 1994 at Pocono when Ward Burton finished second ahead of Joe Nemechek in third and Jeff Burton in fourth.