Washout Puts Custer On Xfinity Pole At Darlington


Cole Custer (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – A washout of NASCAR Xfinity Series practice and qualifying Friday evening at Darlington Raceway put defending champion Cole Custer in the best starting spot possible.

Custer will lead the field to green in Saturday’s Crown Royal Purple Bag Project 200 at the Track Too Tough to Tame, thanks to his performance-metric score of 3.95.

NASCAR’s performance metric was established in 2020 when qualifying was canceled for most races due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It factors in driver finish (25%), car owner finish (25%), current owner points position (35%) and fastest race lap ranking (15%) from the previous event.

Though the metric table was shelved when full qualifying returned in 2022, it remains available in the event that qualifying is scrubbed due to weather or extenuating circumstances, and also determines the qualifying order for all three NASCAR national series each weekend.

Custer is seeking the first NASCAR win of the year for both Stewart-Haas Racing as a team and Ford as a manufacturer. The Blue Ovals are winless in all three national series since the season kicked off at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway in February.

Joining Custer on the front row Saturday will be Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chandler Smith, whose metric score was 5.35 from the last Xfinity Series event two weeks ago at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.

Smith’s teammate Sheldon Creed and Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger start third and fourth, respectively, with Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill filling out the top five.

Sixth through 10th on the grid are Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier, Anthony Alfredo, Riley Herbst, and Parker Retzlaff.

Notables rolling off deeper in the field include leading rookie Jesse Love (12th), Carson Kvapil (13th), Brandon Jones (14th), Shane van Gisbergen (17th), Aric Almirola (18th), Sammy Smith (23rd), Taylor Gray (24th), and Cup Series regulars John Hunter Nemechek (34th) and William Byron (38th).

With 38 cars on the property for 38 starting spots, all drivers made the field for the 200-mile race.

Coverage of the Crown Royal Purple Bag Project 200 at Darlington is slated for Saturday, May 11 at 1:30 p.m. ET, live 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.