Race Weekend Central

Cole Custer Recovers to Finish 3rd at Darlington After Botched Pit Stop

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Saturday’s (May 11) NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway proved to be a pivotal race for Cole Custer and the No. 00 team, as a rainout in Friday’s (May 10) qualifying session put them on the pole.

With a throwback honoring Johnny Sauter‘s 2006 Yellow Transportation paint scheme for what was then Haas CNC Racing in Xfinity, Custer quickly established control of the race, as he proceeded to gap the second-place car by three seconds by the time a competition caution fell on lap 20.

But everything unraveled under that competition caution, as a slow pit stop with an issue on the left front tire dropped him from the lead to outside the top 10. To make things worse, Custer had to head down pit road a second time for an issue with the lug nuts.

That second stop dropped him all the way back to 33rd, but all looked to be well, as Custer drove all the way up to 17th-place by the time the first stage ended on lap 45.

Custer reported that his car had become free in the second stage, and he struggled in traffic and made up no ground to the leaders. Some adjustments and pit road cycles in the final stage allowed him to make his way back to the front, and he restarted on the outside of the second row for the final restart of the day with 16 laps to go.

Custer ultimately crossed the finish line in third for his series-leading ninth top-10 finish in a row, but with how good the car was at the start of the race, it wasn’t the result that he or the No. 00 team was hoping for.

“Just frustrating,” Custer said. “I had such a fast car to fire off, and we had a three-second lead that first run, but we lost the track position on that restart, had to start dead last.

“From there, we just probably didn’t make the right adjustments on the car; just being in traffic, just didn’t know what to do. We got the car back going where we needed to by the end, but it was just so frustrating, we really want to be in victory lane, and I think we had a car to do that today. We just need everything to play out right, whether it’s rain or just whatever it is, you just need a little bit more to win.”

It was Justin Allgaier who took control of the race after Custer’s miscue on pit road, and Allgaier proceeded to take the rest of the field out to the woodshed by leading 119 of the final 122 laps.

See also
Justin Allgaier Dominates at Darlington for 1st Win of 2024

Could Custer have given Allgaier a run for his money if he wasn’t sent to the back?

“I have no idea, but I felt like we had a car to win today,” Custer said. “I think we could have fought with them if we were up front all day. I think we definitely could have fought with them, but it is what it is. That’s racing, so we’ll move on to the next one.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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