NXS: Cole Custer wins 1st race of 2023 at Portland in Overtime

Taking advantage of an Overtime restart on the 12-turn Portland International Raceway, Cole Custer capitalized on a mistake ahead of him and held off a hard-charging Justin Allgaier over the final two laps to claim his first Xfinity Series victory since returning to the series full-time in 2023.

A debris caution on Lap 73 of a scheduled 75 necessitated the Overtime finish, and Parker Kligerman was able to get a good jump and made it three-wide by diving to the inside of race-leader Allgaier in Turn 1 to try to gain the lead.

Kligerman was unable to make the corner, which pushed he, Allgaier and John Hunter Nemecheck wide of the first turn, forcing them to serve a de facto time penalty as instructed by NASCAR – maneuvering around pieces of signage before blending back in with the field.

That allowed Custer – who started the race from the rear despite qualifying second – to take over the lead, and though Allgaier, who led 23 laps, closed to his back bumper in Turn 11 coming to the checkered flag in a heart-thumping finish, Custer was able to hold on for the 11th victory of his career by .142 seconds.

“I mean, just try not to make mistakes. I did the same exact thing – I saw him drive in so deep. I did the same thing like two restarts ago,” Custer said of Kligerman’s misstep.

“Man, I’m just so happy. I’ve never won a road course race before. I’ve been so close so many times.

“It’s just awesome to win this.”

The win was the first by a full-time Ford driver in the series since Austin Cindric won on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in 2021 driving for Team Penske.

Pole sitter Sheldon Creed had the fastest car early, winning the first stage and leading 47 of the race’s first 49 laps. On Lap 50, the final lap of Stage 2, Nemechek turned Creed from the lead in Turn 11 and dropped Creed to sixth in the running order. The move was all for naught as Custer edged Nemechek by a nose to claim the stage.

Creed got his payback later, spinning Nemechek from second in Turn 12, dropping Nemechek well down the leaderboard. Nemechek also had a run-in with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith in the closing laps as Smith spun Nemechek around in Turn 1. Nemechek recovered to finish 10th while Smith ran 30th.

“He (Nemechek) spun me coming to the stage end there,” Creed, the seventh-place finisher, said. “Obviously going for a stage win, aggressive. He came up and apologized and I got even on the racetrack, so that was fine.”

Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammates Sam Mayer and Josh Berry came home behind him in third and fourth, followed by Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill in fifth.

Myatt Snider was sixth, Connor Mosack eighth and Chandler Smith ninth. It was the first top-10 of Mosack’s career.

Even with his chaotic afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, Nemechek retains the points lead by 14 over Hill.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will make more right- and left-handed turns next Saturday at Sonoma Raceway for the first time in series history. Coverage of the DoorDash 250 is on FS1 beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Jason Guth
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