Austin Cindric has won 2022 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Cup Series, bookending a strong first year as a Cup driver with two prestigious honors. Cindric had effectively sealed the Rookie of the Year title by making the NASCAR playoffs, but he was not officially given the crown until after the checkered flag in Sunday's season finale at Phoenix.
Cindric, 24, was promoted to the Cup Series after excelling in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he won the series title in 2020 and came mere feet away from repeating as champion in 2021. He proceeded to signal his arrival as a Cup driver in resounding fashion, winning the Daytona 500 after holding off a horde of veterans on the final lap for his first career victory in just his eighth career start.
Cindric's Daytona 500 victory made him the very first driver to secure a spot in the playoffs, and he proceeded to show that his win was no fluke. Cindric would score five top fives and nine top 10s, lead 86 laps, and also won his first career pole at Fontana in February. Cindric would advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR playoffs, and he eventually finished 12th in the final standings -- the best finish for a rookie driver since 2016.
Cindric prevailed in a three-driver rookie fight that also saw his competitors, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland, have their moments of success as well. At Indianapolis in July, the three finished second, third and fourth together, marking the first time that three rookie drivers all finished in the top five in a Cup race since 1994.
Cindric is the second driver in the history of Team Penske to win Rookie of the Year, doing so 20 years after Penske driver Ryan Newman won the award in 2002. He is also the third straight Ford driver to win Rookie of the Year, joining Cole Custer (2020) and Chase Briscoe (2021).