Cole Custer Earns Shock Win in Kentucky

Cole Custer Earns Shock Win in Kentucky

Sunday was a day full of surprises. After numerous weather reports calling for thunderstorms in the area of Kentucky Speedway, the NASCAR community was almost positive this event would join a quickly-growing list of rain-delayed/postponed races. Instead, Mother Nature surprised everyone with sunny skies and allowed the race to proceed as planned. As if that wasn’t unusual enough (Mother Nature typically hates NASCAR), the race itself turned out to be stunning as well because what started out as nothing less than humdrum, turned out to be nail-biting for the final 50 laps and led to a shocking first-time winner.

LAP 1: After securing P1 in a random draw for qualifying spots, pole-sitter Kyle Busch led the field to the green flag. Busch and 2nd-place starter, Aric Almirola, pulled away from the pack as the two battled for the top spot. 

LAP 10: After several attempts, Almirola finally passed Busch on the outside lane. Almirola’s  #10 Ford pulled away to a comfortable lead as Busch began to struggle with his long-run speed, falling farther back in the field with each lap. 

CAUTION – LAP 25: The yellow flag waved for a competition caution so teams could check tire wear and make adjustments since there was no practise or qualifying. Almirola held onto the lead coming off of pit road and regained his comfortable pace when the race restarted. 

STAGE 1 END – LAP 80: Following an uneventful first stage, Almirola collected the playoff point awarded at the end of the segment. Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Matt DiBenedetto, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 5. Martin Truex Jr, who started the race at the back of the field as a penalty for failing pre-race inspection, finished in the 10th position at the end of the stage. Almirola held onto the lead during pit stops and continued to lead off the restart.

LAP 138: The #12 of Ryan Blaney dove to the inside lane in Turn 3 and passed Almirola for the top spot. This was an impressive feat considering that Blaney’s shifter would not remain in gear, forcing Blaney to drive one-handed for the majority of the race in order to hold the shifter in place.  

LAP 147: Green-flag pitstops began when several teams opted to make their stop prior to the end of the stage. Blaney had to surrender the lead, leaving his teammate Brad Keselowski in P1. 

CAUTION – LAP 153: The first incident-related caution came out for the #42 of Matt Kenseth who spun on the apron in Turn 4. The yellow came out with just 6 laps to go in the stage, thus triggering a shootout to the end.  

STAGE 2 END – LAP 160: Brad Keselowski hung onto the lead during the 1-lap shootout and claimed the stage win as well as the playoff point. Behind him, Ryan Blaney, Cole Custer, Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr completed the Top 5. Keselowski made his pitstop during the stage break along with several other drivers and remained in the lead. 

LAP 181: Starting in the back didn’t seem to have a negative effect on Martin Truex Jr’s race, especially when he passed Keselowski on the back straightaway and took P1. 

CAUTION – LAP 224: The caution came out for two different incidents that occurred simultaneously. First, there was debris on the front stretch, which was the result of Brennan Poole hitting the wall. Meanwhile, Austin Dillon decided against going to pit road at the last minute and made a sharp right turn back onto the racing surface. The rapid change in banking between the apron and the track caused Dillon to spin and hit the outside barrier head-on. 

CAUTION – LAP 243: As the race quickly heated up, it became a copious supply of cautions during the last 30 laps. The next one was due to the #38 of John Hunter Nemechek, who got into the wall and sustained heavy damage on the right front of his Ford Mustang. 

CAUTION – LAP 248: On the restart, Brad Keselowski in 6th place, pulled to the inside lane with a run on Jimmie Johnson. The #48 of Johnson attempted to block the run but instead turned himself across the nose of Keselowski’s #2 Ford and spun into the infield grass. None of the drivers pitted, which put Truex and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the restart. The two drove away from the field and swapped the top spot several times. 

CAUTION – LAP 260: The final caution came for Matt Kenseth, who spun again coming off of Turn 4. This put an end to the intense back-and-forth battle between Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr at the front of the field and triggered a green-white-checkered shootout to finish the race. Truex and Harvick lined up on the front row once again, with Blaney and the rookie of Cole Custer making up the second row. 

CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 267: The final lap saw the front four drivers fan out four-wide, bumping and banging their way into Turn 1. Custer got a run coming off the high line and took the lead for the first time in his Cup career. Custer crossed the line 0.2 seconds ahead of Truex and claimed his 1st victory, making history as the first rookie driver to win a regular race since 2007. 

RESULTS:

  1. Cole Custer
  2. Martin Truex Jr
  3. Matt DiBenedetto
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Kurt Busch
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Christopher Bell
  8. Aric Almirola
  9. Brad Keselowski
  10. Tyler Reddick
  11. William Byron
  12. Denny Hamlin
  13. Austin Dillon
  14. Clint Bowyer
  15. Joey Logano
  16. Ty Dillon
  17. Ryan Newman
  18. Jimmie Johnson
  19. Alex Bowman
  20. Chris Buescher
  21. Kyle Busch
  22. Erik Jones
  23. Chase Elliott
  24. Michael McDowell
  25. Matt Kenseth
  26. Daniel Suarez
  27. Bubba Wallace
  28. Corey Lajoie
  29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  30. JJ Yeley
  31. Brennan Poole
  32. Josh Bilicki
  33. Garrett Smithley
  34. Joey Gase
  35. Quin Houff
  36. John Hunter Nemechek
  37. Timmy Hill
  38. Ryan Preece
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