Cole Custer captures Cup win at Kentucky

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs 

Rookie Cole Custer of Ladera Ranch, California, stormed to his first career NASCAR Cup win Sunday afternoon at Kentucky Speedway, leaving viewers wondering what just happened.

With 10 to go, it looked like another textbook win for The Closer, Kevin Harvick, but a caution on Lap 262 racked the field again and changed everything. The restart was, of course, crazy, and the field went under the white flag four wide.

A push from third-place finisher Matt DiBenedetto helped Custer to the front, but it was Custer who kept his foot to the floor as Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Blaney battled it out, and Custer who bobbed and weaved his way to the finish line, giving Ford its fourth win in five races at the Cup level.

“My spotter, Andy Houston, did a great job. He kept me in the right spots and everything,” Custer acknowledged. “Those few restarts before, I had gone to the top before, it worked out really good. You're able to keep so much momentum up. I was like, ‘I just got to get to the top here, we'll see what happens.’ The 4 and 19 got together [Harvick and Truex]. Opened the door for me to get a lot of momentum on them. Played into our favor.”

Harvick, who finished fourth after having hoped to get his first win in the Bluegrass State, was happy for Custer. “Last week he was a big part of our win, and to get to victory lane in your rookie year is a big deal. Really happy for Gene (Haas) and everyone at Haas Automation and especially for Cole, he works really hard,” he said.

Describing the end of the race, Harvick explained, “We got lucky with that caution and got track position. We had a couple good restarts there, and then we were in a position to win. We made it through turns one and two and then Martin (Truex) kind of misjudged on the backstretch and kind of got into us. I had to check up. Next thing I knew I was four-wide on the front straightaway and the 12 (Blaney) hit the drain and went back up the racetrack.”

Truex hung on for second place. He described his point of view. “Just trying to get in line behind the 4 (Kevin Harvick) off of (turn) two there and got into him a little bit. Then got outside him because I screwed that up and went into (Turn) three and I knew he was going to run me up pretty high. I was up in the loose stuff pretty good there, but I was able to hang onto it, he said.

“The 41 (Cole Custer) came with a big run and I didn’t see him coming. Unfortunate, but we had a hell of a battle today,” said Truex.

DiBenedetto, who finished third, said he was mad in the closing laps, but he let that anger motivate him to finish well. “When we restarted, we made a pretty big power move on the restart before that. I got a good restart. I was curious basically what he [Custer] was going to do. When he pulled to the top, I was like, ‘Yeah, that was a good move right there.’”

“I just decided to shove him since I couldn't go around him on the outside.” DiBenedetto said. “Time to push the heck out of him, see how far we can shove him up there. Helped him to get to the win. I joked with him and told me he owes me a hundred bucks.”

Not only did Custer get the trophy, he qualified for Wednesday's All-Star Race, as well as earned a berth in the Playoffs. "It's unbelievable. I was kind of nervous going into Bristol, trying to make it into the All‑Star Race. It's not easy. There's a lot of good guys that are probably not going to make the race." Custer stated.

"To be in the All‑Star Race right now takes a lot of stress off.  Who knows, maybe we can go win the $1 million. We were solid at Bristol before. Ended up getting wrecked.  We obviously have a lot of confidence now in what we're doing. Just got to keep it going."

Sponsored by NASCAR’s Premier Partners Busch, Coca-Cola, GEICO and Xfinity, the NASCAR All-Star Race coverage begins on FS1 at 6 p.m. ET, July 15. The NASCAR Open begins at 7 p.m. and the NASCAR All-Star Race starts at 8:30 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Cole Custer captures Cup win at Kentucky Cole Custer captures Cup win at Kentucky Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, July 12, 2020 Rating: 5