nascar cup series rookie cole custer made a daring four-wide pass to take the lead on the final lap for victory in sunday’s quaker state 400 presented by walmart at kentucky speedway: the First rookie to win in NASCAR’s premier series in four years.
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custer, who restarted fifth on a restart with two laps to go, pushed his way forward, daring to go high on the track to the outside of a three-wide challenge for the lead between martin truex jr., ryan blaney and 22-year-old kevin harvik custer held the high line and was able to get around all three veterans, ultimately holding off two-time kentucky winner 2017 series champion truex by just 0.271 seconds to earn the victory. /p>
The five laps the Californian led on Sunday (four at the start of the race and then the final lap) were the first laps Custer led in the NASCAR Cup Series.
related: official race results | stage summaries
matt dibenedetto, harvick and 2019 kentucky winner kurt busch finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Blaney, rookie Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and rookie Tyler Reddick completed the top 10. It’s the first time in NASCAR history that three rookies have finished in the top 10 in one race.
“We had such a good time all day, our car was so good,” said a smiling custer after getting out of his car no. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford down the front straight. “Obviously it wasn’t the easiest track to get through, so we got stuck there, but that was the best car I’ve ever driven.”
It was certainly a dramatic conclusion to a career that featured a dominant almirola from the start. he led a race-high 128 of the 267 laps, the most laps led in a race for the driver of no. 10 stewart-haas racing fords.
almirola won the first stage, ahead of chase elliott and joey logano. Keselowski won the second stage over Blaney and Custer. caution flags were frequent in the last few laps and the race pace became much more intense.
truex, who started last in the 38-car field after a problem in pre-race inspection, made his bold move in the final 100 laps. He took the lead for the first time with 86 laps remaining, and his 57 laps in front were bested only by Almirola as he kept the field honest in the final stage.
four warnings in the final 37 laps, however, created drama on every restart with blaney, truex and harvick vying for the lead. It was exactly at that moment that Custer made his four-wide move at the end for the biggest win of his young life.
Even more impressive is that these first-year NASCAR Cup Series drivers were able to excel without practice sessions or qualifying, all the precautions NASCAR has instituted since returning to competition after the COVID-19 hiatus. 19.
“It’s not easy,” Custer said. “You have to adapt as much as you can. I think we’ve gotten better and better at that. it’s just amazing. I didn’t think we were going to come here and win. and now we will be in the race of the stars.
“it’s amazing. we had a great car all day, one of the best cars I’ve ever driven in my life. it was hard to get to the front. once we got there, we took advantage of it and I just can’t thank everyone in the store.”
Although obviously disappointed not to win, Custer’s shr teammate Harvick was quick to praise his young teammate.
“We were in a position to win, you know?” Harvick said. “He came through turns 1 and 2, martin just misjudged on the back straight and he messed with us and I had to check. next thing i knew we were four wide down the frontstretch and then the 12 (blaney) went down the drain and was back on the racetrack.
“just congratulations to cole custer. last week was a big part of our victory (at the indianapolis speedway). Getting to victory lane in your rookie year is a big deal. i am so happy for gene (haas) and everyone at (haas automation) and especially for cole. he works very hard.”
The next event in the NASCAR Cup Series is the Pointless NASCAR All-Star Race, scheduled for Wednesday (8:30 PM ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). NASCAR’s All-Star Open Qualifier is scheduled for the previous Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) to fill out the invitation field. The next Cup Series points payout race is scheduled for next Sunday (3pm ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) at Texas Motor Speedway.
note: cole custer no. 41 stewart-haas racing ford passed nascar post-race inspection at kentucky speedway.