By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
After a long, hot day, Cole Custer earned his fifth-consecutive top-five finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The top-five finish in the Overton’s 300 also gives Custer the championship points lead.
Custer’s No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang was strong throughout the race. In the final run to the finish, he battled with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, as well as fellow Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell. On the crucial final pit stop of the race, Custer slid through his pit box. His crew caught the mistake before working on the car, which would have been a violation, and push him back into the box.
Custer rejoined the race in third, behind his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Harvick. While he avoided a major penalty, Bell was caught speeding on pit road. This left Custer to battle with his teammate, and a comfortable gap over Daniel Hemric and Daniel Suarez. When the checkered flag waved, the Ladera Ranch, CA native crossed the line in third.
“It was a great car,” Custer said. “All our guys on the Haas Automation Mustang did great. I just hate that I missed the box that last corner, I think that is all on me. I don’t know that we would have caught Kyle, but we would have gotten one more spot. It is what it is. We will just move on.”
Only race winner Larson passed more cars than Custer. Both drivers had to start from the rear after unapproved tire change following qualifying. By the end of Stage 1, Custer had climbed from 38th to 11th, showing the strength of his Ford Mustang.
Custer’s third-place finish is the fifth consecutive, and sixth top-five this season. It is also the 12thtop-10 for the 20-year-old this season. Custer took control of the Championship Points Leader from Elliott Sadler. He leads Hemric by three points and has a 226-point cushion over the cutoff for the Playoffs, held by Ross Chastain.
Now Custer and his team will prepare for the unpredictable nature of restrictor plate racing at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, July 6.