Cole Custer outdueled his Championship 4 rivals in the first and only overtime attempt to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Phoenix Raceway Nov. 4.
“I thought it was over,” Custer said of the final restart. “I can’t believe we won that thing after going to third on the restart.”
The restart in question involved all Championship 4 contenders lining up in the first two rows in overtime. Both John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Allgaier passed Custer in the opening corners, but Custer returned to the lead with a three-wide pass coming to the white flag.
This triumph came in his third Championship 4 appearance. Custer also won the race, his third of the season and first win on an oval in 2023.
Allgaier finished third, and Sam Mayer crossed the stripe fifth. Nemechek, the championship favorite entering the event, finished 28th. Contact on the back straightaway cut a tire on the No. 20, sending Nemechek into the wall and to the back of the pack.
Polesitter Sammy Smith led the field to the green flag, which did not last long. On just the second lap, Allgaier made an aggressive three-wide move to the inside of Nemechek. Allgaier slid up and slid sideways, making no contact except for the donut on his door.
Another caution followed on the next restart for Kyle Sieg crashing on the frontstretch. The next restart finally gave way to the first green-flag run of the day. Austin Hill got to the lead, but Nemechek tracked him down and took over the top spot, winning the opening stage.
At the start of stage two, Custer got the best of Nemechek, taking the lead and running with it. Playoff drivers found the front, occupying the top three spots at the end of stage two, Allgaier as the exception.
Through the first two stages, Allgaier showed speed but had to work through the field after his spin in the first stage, then try and maintain with a set of re-glued tires in stage two.
Custer retained the lead to start the final stage, but a JJ Yeley spin changed things.
On the next restart, Nemechek stayed even with Custer, eventually able to use the high line to take the lead. As great racing commenced at the front of this green flag run, Sheldon Creed made his presence felt once again, driving to battle with Custer and Nemechek for the lead.
The yellow returned with 62 laps to go after Myatt Snider had issues and crashed in turns 3 and 4.
Nemechek led again on the restart, but Custer stayed in striking distance. Custer took the lead with just over 40 laps left. Roles reversed, Nemechek stayed in the tire tracks of Custer.
With 25 laps remaining, the Championship 4 contenders ran first through fourth, as Allgaier tried to close on the lead duo.
As the race crept under 20 laps left, Connor Mosack had an issue and slammed the wall, bringing out the yellow with 19 laps to go.
Custer’s No. 00 crew held serve on pit road, but the No. 7 team leapfrogged the No. 20 team.
While all four Championship 4 contenders raced four-wide momentarily in the opening turns in overtime, Custer prevailed over Allgaier coming to the white flag, setting sail en route to the race win and the championship.
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