Custer Rallies From Early Pit Issue For Darlington Podium


Cole Custer in action at Darlington Raceway. (Jacob Seelman/Race Face Digital photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. - Cole Custer made the most of a missed opportunity Saturday afternoon in the Crown Royal Purple Bag Project 200 at Darlington Raceway.

After practice and qualifying were washed away on Friday, the Ladera Ranch, Calif., native got the pole position for the 200-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series by virtue of NASCAR’s rulebook.

When the green flag dropped, Custer’s No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang - which paid homage to past NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter - jumped out of the gate quickly.

After 21 laps, which Custer led uncontested, the race’s first caution came out. During the ensuing pit sequence, Custer’s team missed some lugnuts on a tire, forcing him back down pit lane with a loose wheel and relegating him to the tail of the field.

When the race restarted, Justin Allgaier and Austin Hill checked out on the field, leaving everyone else to battle for third; a battle that Custer ultimately won.

I’m just frustrated. We had such a fast car with a three-second lead before that comp[etition] yellow and just lost our track position,” Custer said after the race.

“[Sometimes things] happen on pit road. That’s part of it, but it’s frustrating. We’ve been so fast and just haven’t had everything go right,” Custer added. “Our guys are doing such a great job bringing fast cars to the racetrack. Our pit stops are awesome, but we just need everything to go right because once we got back in traffic we just didn’t adjust on [the car] probably how we needed to.”

It’s not to say Custer has had a poor season. Eleven races in, Custer has six top-five finishes and nine top-10s, ranking second in the point standings to Hill. 

With that said, the chances for the defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion to go back-to-back with a second title are far from zero - despite the fact that Ford Performance has yet to hoist a trophy this season in any of NASCAR’s three national series.

“I’m just so frustrated we’re not in victory lane yet, but we’ll keep fighting,” Custer assured.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series has a week off before returning to action at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 25. Coverage of the BetMGM 300 begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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