Cole Custer took the checkered flag for the Camping World 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Custer started on the outside of pole-sitter, Joey Logano when the green flag waved. It did not take long for the No. 00 to take the lead and claim the Stage 1 victory.
With less than 15 laps to go in Stage 2, Ryan Sieg took a spin to bring out the caution flag. The caution gave Joey Logano the advantage when they went back to green. The field went 5 wide into the turn and all managed to keep it together. Logano retook the lead to claim Stage 2.
Stage 3 was action-packed and caution filled with many drivers fighting for position and others running into late race issues. Cole Custer was able to take advantage of late race cautions and retake the lead with 50 laps to go. After passing Michael Annett on the restart with 22 laps to go, the SHR driver never looked back.
The No. 00 Ford led 151 of 200 laps, earning Custer his fourth win of the season and sixth Xfinity Series victory of his career.
“I can’t do anything but thank everyone at Haas Automation and Stewart-Haas Racing because we’re going to take it to them in the summer time,” Custer said while celebrating in victory lane with his Haas Automation crew.
Logano, Annett, Jones and Cindric rounded out the top five at Chicagoland. Christopher Bell originally finished in the third position, but was demoted to a last-place finish after his car failed post-race inspection and was disqualified.
Tyler Reddick remains the leader in Xfinity Series points, followed by Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Justin Allagaier and Austin Cindric rounding out the top five.
The Xfinity Series is back in action for the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6 at 7:30 PM ET.
Cole Custer will start from the pole position in today’s Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. This is his fifth career pole, and his second pole of the season. This is his first start at Talladega.
The first round of qualifying saw drivers warm-up on the high line, and run on the bottom during their timed lap. Qualifying was stopped for Dylan Lupton as he was stopped at the entrance of pit road. Qualifying was also stopped for debris from the car of Clay Greenfield. Chase drivers who did not advance to the second round of qualifying will be Matt Crafton who will start 13th, Christopher Bell who will start 14th, and Daniel Hemric who qualified 17th. The four drivers who will be packing and heading home will be Parker Kligerman, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Ryan Ellis, and Clay Greenfield. Timothy Peters was fastest in the first round at 177.936 mph, Johnny Sauter was second at 177.893 mph, Grant Enfinger was third at 177.867 mph, Custer was fourth at 177.854 mph, and Spencer Gallagher rounded out the top five at 177.639 mph.
The second round of qualifying went without incident. Custer qualified first at 178.417 mph, Enfinger qualified second at 178.380 mph, Gallagher qualified third at 178.168 mph, Ben Kennedy qualified fourth at 178.145 mph, and Sauter rounded out the top-five at 177.811 mph.
The Fred’s 250 will begin at 12:30 p.m. EST on FOX and Motor Racing Network.
With Stewart-Haas Racing announcing that they will have an entry in the XFINITY Series next season, all eyes point to Cole Custer as the guy to drive the car.
Currently, Custer drives for JR Motorsports in his rookie campaign of the Camping World Truck Series with sponsorship from Haas Automation. His father, Joe Custer is the executive vice president at Stewart-Haas Racing and chief executive officer of the Haas F1 Team.
Through 12 races this season, Custer sits 11th in the point standings, five points off the Chase cutoff, held by Cameron Hayley. With a fifth-place finish at Pocono, the No. 00 truck gained 20 points on the Chase bubble.
“We’ve definitely struggled,” Custer told Speedway Digest of his 2016 season. “We thought that we were going to be better this year. I think we are getting better and I think we will have a chance to get in the Chase.”
Custer has back-to-back top-10 finishes, increasing his total to five on the season, with a best finish of second at Iowa in mid-June. Leading three laps this season, the No. 00 truck is looking to regain its momentum that it had when they didn’t compete in a full season.
At age 16 Custer became the youngest winner in Truck Series history, in a dominating performance at New Hampshire, leading 148 of 200 laps in 2014. Last year, the team was victorious at Gateway leading 19 laps.
“A little bit of everything,” Custer said of what the team needs to improve on. “It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that you’re struggling on. We just need to get the whole thing rolling.”
Competing in a handful of XFINITY Series races this season, Custer has a little bit of extra racing on his hands. In three starts this season for JR Motorsports, he has a best finish of fourth at Charlotte, leading one lap.
Like many developing drivers, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. puts his faith in the younger generation of drivers. This is the third season that the duo has worked together, making Custer look up to the 15-time Most Popular Driver as a role model.
“He’s had a really big impact on me,” Custer said of Earnhardt. “He’s a real fun guy to be around and he will help you from time-to-time. He’s been a big help to me.”
As the season progresses and Custer has four races to jump three positions in the standings, the series goes to two tracks that the team is looking forward to – Bristol and the road course of Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. In two career starts at Bristol the 18-year-old has a finish of eighth.
As far as the future goes, Custer isn’t sure what it holds. With his relationship with Gene Haas and Haas Automation, it’s possible that he drives full-time in the XFINITY Series next season.
“I’m not positive yet,” Custer said of his plans for next season. “We’ll see. Hopefully in the next few weeks or in the next month or so.”
Byron was over a tenth of a second faster than the field throughout the weekend, as he was quickest in practice on Friday. When qualifying was rained out, he was awarded the pole due to his speed in practice.
With 11 restarts, on 10 caution flags, a track-high, Byron has to outlast the competition and not allow them to get big runs on the restarts. More times than not, he would be over one second ahead of second-place after the first green flag lap was complete.
"I don't get too far ahead of what our goals are, but that was definitely a goal, I can't lie about that," Byron said of setting the record for wins by a rookie driver in the Truck Series. " I knew that was something to beat. We just show up with so much focus and we never get off track. It's just a credit to where we are as a race team t the work were doing with the trucks and were putting it all together when we get to the race track. I love this race track and I think it's a pretty neat place and I think you have to be in love with the race track to have success at the track."
Cameron Hayley was the best of the rest, as he recorded a season-best second-place finish. In two career races at Pocono, the No. 13 truck has finished among the top five.
"Last year I got beat by Cup drivers and I felt like I could have won if there were no Cup drivers, now you've got William Byron that is super fast and I got beat again," Hayley said of his second-place finish. "I wish we could have sealed the deal, but I have two top fives in my two starts here. I don't know what it is about this track that I like, maybe it's more suited toward a road course and I love road course racing."
Brett Moffitt, replacing Matt Tifft at Red Horse Racing finished third after spending much of the day inside the top five. With no other races on his 2016 schedule, he hopes this performance sticks out on owners minds so that he can get off the couch for the remainder of the season.
"It feels good for myself," Moffitt said of the finish. "I think this will open some eyes with no other races on my schedule, hopefully it will make me a little bit busier in the second half of the summer. All in all, the guys at Red Horse did a really good job. It feels really good."
Leading four laps, Timothy Peters finished fourth at Pocono. Cole Custer rounded out the top five, after spinning in the Tunnel Turn on Lap 11.
Rico Abreu finished sixth, marking his second-consecutive top-10 finish. Ben Kennedy came home seventh, with Johnny Sauter was eighth, John Hunter Nemechek finished ninth and Christopher Bell rounded out the top 10.
Bell set a record of five free passes, to get back on the lead lap after he was involved in an incident with John Wes Townley during the third caution of the afternoon. In the final five laps, Bell raced from 23rd to 10th.
For Brad Keselowski Racing, Chase implications took a turn on Lap 27 when Daniel Hemric spun in Turn 1, collecting Tyler Reddick. The No. 29 truck fell from the Chase bubble to 10th on the grid, one point off the pace.
The Truck Series will have two weeks off prior to returning to the race track August 17, where Ryan Blaney is the defending winner for Brad Keselowski Racing.