Cole Custer’s rising-star status shined brightly in the UNOH 175 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development (HRD), scored his first career Truck Series victory in just his seventh series start. At 16 years, seven months and 28 days, he is the youngest race winner in NASCAR national series history.
Custer started from the pole with a record qualifying lap of 28.877 seconds at 131.897 mph. He then led three times for a race-high 148 laps in the 175-lap race around the 1.058-mile oval.
“What a great feeling and great win,” said Custer, who came into New Hampshire with four straight top-10 Truck Series finishes. “This is just our seventh race together as a team. We’ve been pretty good every time we’ve gone out and qualified well, but we just had a great Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado this weekend. We were able to take the lead, which was a big deal because clean air was so important, and after that we were just able to pull away.”
Custer’s previous best Truck Series finish was sixth in June at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. He has two more Truck Series races remaining as part of his nine-race Truck Series schedule for HRD in 2014.Custer has four wins in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, a feeder division to the Camping World Truck Series.
Despite his youth, Custer showed veteran poise at New Hampshire. He led the first 67 laps before briefly giving up the lead during the first round of green-flag pit stops. Custer was able to quickly regain the lead on lap 71 and held it until a caution flag on lap 147. The native of Ladera Ranch, California, brought the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet to pit road under caution for four tires and fuel, but lost the lead as six trucks took either no tires or two tires and forced Custer to restart seventh on lap 152.
“We were able to race our way back to the front after our four-tire stop,” Custer said. “I thought that was the right call. Two tires weren’t going to be as fast. It was tough to pass, but we were able to get back up there.”
Custer raced up to fourth on the lap-152 restart before another quick caution came on lap 156. Custer kept the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet out during the caution period and he restarted fourth on lap 160. Custer made a bold move on the restart to move up to second before the final caution came out on lap 168.
During the final restart, Custer battled former Truck Series champion Matt Crafton for the win, taking the lead for the final time on lap 172. Custer crossed the finish line 1.148 seconds ahead of second place Darrell Wallace Jr.
Custer, who previously won at New Hampshire in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, received a special honor in victory lane when race sponsor University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) offered him a Presidential Scholarship to attend college and pursue a degree.
“UNOH offered me a Presidential Scholarship after the race – I can’t believe that,” said an excited Custer. “That was very generous of them and I appreciate it very much.”