Rookie Cole Custer Earns First NASCAR Cup Series Win At Kentucky Speedwayby Hunter Thomas July 12, 2020 0 comments
SPARTA, Ky. – Rookie Cole Custer earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory on Sunday in the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway after making a bold, four-wide move to take the lead on the final lap.
On a green-white-checkered restart, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick led the field to the final green flag of the afternoon; however, with a huge push by Matt DiBenedetto, Custer rocketed to third after restarting in sixth. With such a huge boost of momentum, Custer made a move for the second position entering Turn 3, but he was blocked by Truex.
On the final lap, Ryan Blaney, Harvick, Truex and Custer battled four-wide for the race lead along the frontstretch. Blaney made contact with Harvick who then made slight contact with Truex. Custer, who was on the far high side of the four-wide battled cleared his competitors and took over the lead as they entered Turn 1 for the final time. Custer held onto the lead on the final lap as he won his first series race in only his 20th career start.
“I knew I just had to get to the top,” Custer said. “The top rolled pretty good and once I got past and I was like in third I was like, ‘I’ve just got to take a shot and do whatever I can here.’ And it ended up the 4 (Harvick) and the 19 (Truex) got together a little bit and I was able to take advantage of it. It was just an unbelievable car and I was able to take advantage of it. I just can’t thank all my guys and everybody at SHR enough, and everybody at Roush Yates Engines — just an absolutely amazing car.”
Prior to Sunday’s race, Custer’s best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series actually only came the week before when he finished fifth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now, the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 team will head to Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night as a lock-in for the NASCAR All-Star Race.
“Yeah, it’s unbelievable,” Custer said about being locked into the NASCAR All-Star Race. “I get the neon lights under the car now and everything. Hopefully, I even make it to Bristol because I’m gonna party pretty good. This is unbelievable — first win. I didn’t think we were gonna come here and win. I was looking for a solid run — pretty unbelievable.”
Truex, who led 57 laps throughout the afternoon finished second, his third top-five finish of the season. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota was originally slated to start the race in ninth, but he had to drop to the rear at the beginning of the race, because his car failed pre-race tech inspection twice. While being runner-up is always a good day, Truex had one of the more dominate cars all afternoon long.
“Just trying to get in line behind the 4 off of (turn) two there and got into him a little bit,” Truex said. “Then got outside him because I screwed that up and went into (turn) three and I knew he was going to run me up pretty high. I was up in the loose stuff pretty good there, but I was able to hang onto it. The 41 came with a big run and I didn’t see him coming. Unfortunate, but we had a hell of a battle today. This Auto Owners Camry was really strong today obviously and really proud of that. Sometimes you lose these things that way. It was unfortunate the way we lost the lead on the restart with the caution coming out and then we about had the lead again and caution came out again. I don’t know, I guess today we were meant to be second.”
Wood Brothers Racing’s DiBenedetto held on to a third-place finish while capturing his third top-five effort of the season.
“I think if I’m correct we went from 18th to third in the last, like, seven laps,” DiBenedetto said. “We made a monstrous restart. My spotter Doug Campbell deserves a lot of credit for helping me. We went around most of the field on the outside, made a power move. Credit to him, the team, Wood Brothers for giving me a super fast car. Thank goodness we came back to third because I was in a really bad mood about seven laps to go.”
Harvick and last year’s event winner, Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Blaney, Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Tyler Reddick completed the top-10.
Almirola led a race high of 128 laps, and he also won Stage 1. Keselowski got the victory in Stage 2.
There were eight cautions for 42 laps throughout the afternoon, but there was only one yellow flag for a multi-car accident. On a restart on lap 250, Jimmie Johnson attempted to pass Keselowski on the low side of the track, when his move was blocked. Contact with Keselowski sent Johnson spinning through the frontstretch grass. Johnson wasn’t happy with Keselowski’s move, and he voiced his frustration on Twitter following the race saying, “I do look forward to my next restart behind @keselowski though.”.
Harvick leads Keselowski in the series standings by 88 points. Up next on the schedule for the NASCAR Cup Series is the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, July 15. This will mark the first time in series history that Bristol will host the non-points, $1 million-to-win event. Live coverage of the night will begin with the NASCAR All-Star Open beginning at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN). The NASCAR All-Star Race will follow at 8:30 p.m. ET
Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images