Austin Cindric helmet

During the IZOD Indy Car Series season, team owner Michael Andretti and Team Penske president Tim Cindric love nothing better than to beat each other on the race track. Putting that rivalry aside, the two are teaming together to provide an opportunity for a young, aspiring driver who hopes to climb the ranks.

Austin Cindric, the 14-year-old son of Tim and Megan Cindric, will drive the No. 77 Nightrain Clothing race car for the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda season. He begins this relationship in this week’s USF2000 Cooper Tires Winterfest, his Mazda Road to Indy debut.

"I can't thank the Andretti Autosport team enough for the opportunity," Austin Cindric said. "I am very grateful to be surrounded by such capable people. I realize that I have a lot to learn but I am really looking forward to the challenges ahead. It should be really fun to represent Nightrain Clothing (Austin's brother, Tanner, is a founding member) while I pursue my dream."

Austin Cindric began in the Bandolero division at Charlotte Motor Speedway and advanced into the Legends cars – a smaller stock car division that competes regularly on a series of short ovals at one of NASCAR’s most legendary tracks. He quickly advanced through the ranks and that prepared him for the Skip Barber Winter Series at Andretti Autosport.

Both Tim and Megan Cindric have been involved in racing their entire lives. Tim’s father worked for legendary Indy car engine builder Herb Porter. After graduating from Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute, Ind., Cindric worked at TrueSport and then Rahal-Hogan Racing. Megan’s father, Jim Trueman, was in charge of one of America’s most successful motel brands – Red Roof Inn – and was an active sports car driver and team owner. He was also an Indy car team owner and enjoyed tremendous success with Bobby Rahal as the driver, winning back-to-back CART championships in the 1980s and the 1986 Indianapolis 500.

Tim Cindric is normally all business when he is at the race track, but when he talks about his son it’s easy to hear the parental pride in his voice.

“It’s something that every parent enjoys when they help their child do what they really want to do; I guess that is all you can offer,” Tim Cindric said. “Those guys (Andretti Autosport) are among the best at what they do there and I’m happy he is surrounded by such good guys.”

“I think it’s a good story. Roger is very supportive of Austin. We are competitors at one level but we are all pulling in the same direction at the other level. The Penske guys were making Austin a seat to send off to the Andretti guys. There is good collaboration.”

Growing up, the younger Cindric looked up to CART great Greg Moore, who passed in a racing incident in 1999. Wanting to honor and emulate his idol, Austin Cindric asked to model his helmet after the one Moore was intended to wear with Penske Racing in 2000, which just so happened to be sitting on display in the Cindric household after Moore’s father Ric gave it to the family as a Christmas gift. Austin Cindric reached out to Ric Moore for permission, and received a written note of approval along with several of Greg Moore’s signature “See ya at the front” stickers that decorated his helmet.

The USF2000 Cooper Tires Winterfest kicks off February 5-6 at Sebring International Raceway and continues February 9-10 at Palm Beach International Raceway. From there, the series kicks off its regular season on March 14-15 at Sebring International Raceway before joining all levels of the Mazda Road to Indy on the streets of St. Petersburg March 23-24.