Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development (HRD), started second and finished eighth in the rain-delayed UNOH 200 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway Thursday morning. It was Custer’s third consecutive top-10 result in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in his fifth start of the 2014 season.
Despite handling issues that made his Haas Automation truck loose into and off of the track’s corners while staying tight in the center, Custer was able to make the most of his first Truck Series start at the .533-mile oval.
“We were pretty decent at the start,” said Custer. “We just didn’t really have a good short-run truck. We got a little bit behind. We got more and more loose in and tighter in the center as the racetrack rubbered in, and we wound up over-adjusting on it when we came to pit road. We were really trying to battle back the whole time. We had a good strategy call when we came to pit road the second time and just took right-side tires, but we were just too tight to run with the leaders. All in all, we had a decent Haas Automation Chevrolet, and a top-10 finish isn’t too bad for my first time racing at Bristol in the Truck Series.”
Custer, who is running a nine-race Truck Series schedule for HRD in 2014, maintained a presence among the top-five for the opening 50 laps of the 200-lap race before coming to pit road under the competition caution to get four fresh tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments to adjust the handling of his black-and-red machine. Custer returned to the track in eighth-place due to a misreading of his pit road speed. Despite the setback, Custer was able to maintain the position until the next caution period on lap 114, when he would hit pit road for what would be his final stop of the day.
With track position always playing a big factor in determining the outcome of races at Bristol, crew chief Joe Shear Jr. elected to change right-side tires and add fuel in an effort to advance Custer towards the front of the field. The gamble paid off as the No. 00 was scored fourth for the lap 118 restart. With a truck that handled better on the long runs, Custer struggled to maintain pace with the leaders once green-flag racing resumed. He gave up positions early in the fun, falling to eighth, where he would eventually take the checkered flag.
“I was really surprised that there wasn’t a late-race caution,” Custer said. “We got faster as that run went on, and I think we would have been able to do something if the field would have been bunched back up. We just lost too much track position at the end. I know we were recording some fast lap times, but we were too far back to be able to make a run at the end.”
Brad Keselowski won the UNOH 200 to score his first career Camping World Truck Series victory.
Darrell Wallace Jr. finished behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot while Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top-five. John Nemechek, Joey Coulter, Custer, Ben Rhodes and Corey Lajoie comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 27 laps with eight drivers failing to finish.