Custer Rockets To Phoenix Xfinity Series Pole


Cole Custer in action at Phoenix Raceway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Cole Custer is picking up right where he left off last year at Phoenix Raceway.

Custer, who won at the one-mile desert oval in November to capture his first title, grabbed the pole position in qualifying for Saturday afternoon’s “Every Dig, Every Time” 200.

The Ladera Ranch, Calif., native turned a lap of 27.380 seconds (131.483 mph) with his No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang, earning the top grid spot by more than a tenth of a second.

It marked Custer’s 20th career pole in 147 Xfinity Series races, as well as his second at Phoenix.

“We had a goal that we wanted to set a lot of pole [times] this year, so this is a good start to that,” said Custer. “We had a really fast Haas Automation Ford Mustang there; I think our long-run speed was good in practice, too, so we just have to keep [the momentum] rolling.

“Clean air is definitely going to be nice [early in the race], and JT [crew chief Jonathan Toney] and the guys did a great job bringing us a fast piece here to the desert,” Custer added. “Hopefully, we can have a good race now and keep it out front all afternoon.”

Though Custer knows he has good memories recently in the Valley of the Sun, he also knows he can’t look back if he hopes to continue succeeding in the Xfinity Series this year.

“At the end of the day, you have to keep the intensity up and come in wanting to win,” Custer tipped. “What you did last year doesn’t matter, so our goal is to come out strong and keep striving for more.”

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Joining Custer on the front row will be Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chandler Smith, who topped an owner-points tiebreaker with Sam Hunt Racing’s Corey Heim for second as the final car to take a qualifying lap.

Smith and Heim turned identical laps of 27.507 seconds (130.876 mph).

“I think we’ve got a really fast Quick Tie Products Toyota GR Supra, for sure,” noted Smith. “We had really good long run speed, especially from lap five on, and our fire off was solid. I think we may have missed it just a bit for our qualifying lap, but it’s OK because we’ve got good notes now to learn from … so that when we come back here in the fall, we don’t make any mistakes and can come out with guns blazing.”

Heim, a full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver, starts third alongside Custer’s teammate Riley Herbst. It’s the best qualifying effort of Heim’s young Xfinity Series career in just his sixth start.

JR Motorsports veteran Justin Allgaier closed the top five, followed by Sheldon Creed, rookie Jesse Love, Aric Almirola, Cup Series regular John Hunter Nemechek, and A.J. Allmendinger.

Those starting deeper in the field include two-time season winner and current point leader Austin Hill (15th), Hailie Deegan (19th), Sam Mayer (21st), Shane van Gisbergen (23rd), and Daytona 500 winner William Byron (28th), who is making a rare Xfinity Series start in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 17 Chevrolet.

The green flag for the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Phoenix Raceway is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET, with broadcast coverage on FS1, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.