By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Turn 1 at Texas Motor Speedway has become calamity corner this weekend, and it bit both Cole Custer and Brandon Jones on Lap 131 when they tangled while battling for the fourth spot during Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 and finished outside the top-30 for the first time this season.
Prior to their encounter, both competitors had a dramatic race, due in most part they had near scares that could’ve possibly impacted their outcomes earlier.
For Jones, who was having another strong run in his No. 19 jdgibbslegacy.com Toyota Supra, finished fifth in Stage 1 after starting the race in second. However, he was penalized after removing equipment from his pit pox. The equipment of subject was his jack, resulting sparks and had to restart at the tail end of the lead lap.
Fortunately, Jones recovered tremendously and saw himself getting a 10th-place stage result, poised for his fifth top-five in six races and perhaps a bid for the Dash 4 Cash next Saturday at Bristol up to that point.
As for Custer, who was going for both his second straight series victory and also the Texas two-peat, was running inside the top-five throughout the day, but not enough of a strong car to battle with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Christopher Bell and eventual race winner Kyle Busch.
Then on Lap 124, Custer was running in seventh when Justin Allgaier, who was dealing with the lapped car of Gray Gaulding, got loose at the exit of Turn 3 and spun in front of Custer to bring out the caution. Neither driver sustained major damage and Allgaier said over the radio that it has doing as Custer was inches of running into his car.
This set up another restart which saw both Jones and Custer inside the top-10, and when it resumed, they worked their way into the top-five until Custer got sideways, clipping Jones and resulted in a two-car crash which saw Jones backing into the Turn 1 wall with tremendous force. Custer’s No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford Mustang also took a hard hit as his car kept spinning until his car laid to rest after running into Jones’ car once more.
It’s the second time the two had an incident this season as it was Custer who got into Jones late in the race at Las Vegas earlier in the month. The incident saw Jones’ previous DNF this season after the contact led to Jones’ right front slamming the wall violently. Custer was able to continue his race that day, but not this time around at Texas as he got out of his car and took a 34th place result for his first DNF since Indianapolis last September. It’s also the first time Custer finished outside the top-30 since Atlanta last February.
Jones was able to bring his mangled Toyota into the pits, but the damage wasn’t repairable and it resulted in his second DNF this season after taking 33rd. He stated that it’s unfortunate to see his day end by Custer once again after all the work was put into his car to run competitively at Texas.
“That’s twice this year with the same car,” said Jones. I guess I play too nice and I think if you give drivers respect you should get it back, but we’re still early in the year here. I hate it. We had a really, really fast car this weekend all week long and our guys did a heck of a job. We’ve got another race in Texas in the fall and we’ll try to make something of that.”
Custer stated that he became aggressive on restarts because the difficult nature of passing cars in this race that may have played a role into his car getting loose, and getting into Jones.
“I just got loose under the 19 on that restart. You’ve got to push it extremely hard just because it’s so hard to pass,” Custer explained. “After a couple laps you just have to try and get what you can get. I wasn’t having the best restarts all day, so I tried to be really aggressive there and I just pushed it too hard. I wish I didn’t push it that hard, but it is what it is. I hate tearing up our car, but we’ll go and get them at the next one.”
Both came into the race in the top-five Xfinity Series points standings. Custer came into the race second in points, trailing Tyler Reddick by seven points, but now is third and 42 markers behind Reddick, who ended up second at Texas. Jones was fourth in points, but takes a steep hit in the championship standings, losing three spots.