By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter & NASCAR Contributor
A 17th place finish summed an up and down first trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Cole Custer.
Custer started the race in sixth place and immediately began to slip back around 12th place before the first caution clock yellow flew. He briefly moved up into the top ten on the restart but once again slipped back until the second caution for William Bryon’s engine failure.
A quick pitstop by the Haas Automation pitcrew once again lifted Custer to the top ten but he once again struggled on the restart and slipped back to the high teens by the next yellow flag. A repeated good performance by his pitcrew once again rose him up to the top ten. Following the restart, Custer remained with the lead pack until Ben Rhodes got loose while racing in the top five and slid in front of Custer. The two made contact and both fell back with Custer getting the worst of it by sliding as far back as 19th place. As the run wore on, he began to pick his way through the field and fought his way up to 14th when the final caution clock yellow flew with 25 laps to go.
Another clean pitstop brought him back into the top 10 when it came time for the restart. On the restart, Custer made contact with Cameron Hayley while getting up to speed in the tri oval just before Christopher Bell came together with Daniel Suarez which took out leader Matt Crafton and brought the yellow back out.
Despite suffering a bit of damage, Custer still found himself in sixth place on the final restart and looked as if he might be able to pull off a top ten finish until he began to slip back again until the final yellow flew when Bell suffered a right front tire blowout and crashed in turn 4. Custer then brought the #00 down pit road to repair some damage which would relegate him to a 17th place finish.
“We definitely didn’t start off the way we wanted to,” said Custer. “We struggled with balance on the Haas Automation Chevrolet, and on the restarts, it seemed like we could never get going on our way. Every time we’d get in a good position, something would happen and we’d lose all our track position, and track position is everything at Atlanta.
“I was pretty lucky to miss all that on the backstretch with the leaders…it was pretty close. We’ve always run great at Martinsville, and that’s next, so we’ll be ready with another fast Haas Automation Silverado.”
Image: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images