Cole Custer Conquers The Monster

Cole Custer celebrates in victory lane Saturday at Dover Int'l Speedway. (Dave Moulthrop Photo)
Cole Custer celebrates in victory lane Saturday at Dover Int'l Speedway. (Dave Moulthrop Photo)

DOVER, Del. – Making his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series start, Cole Custer survived two late-race restarts to win the Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 Saturday at Dover Int’l Speedway.

Custer wasn’t in contention throughout most of Saturday’s race, but a timely caution with 23 laps left presented Custer with an opportunity to take control of the 200-lap race.

The driver of the No. 00 Ford Mustang was leading the race in the midst of a pit cycle when Dillon Bassett spun trying to make it to pit road, resulting in the caution flag waving. Custer was one of three drivers – including Michael Annett and Justin Haley – who had not pitted at the time of the caution and were the only drivers still on the lead lap.

Custer, Annett and Haley all hit pit road during the caution period and lined up for the restart in that order with Justin Allgaier – the lucky dog driver during the caution period – starting fourth.

The green flag waved with 15 laps left and Custer maintained his lead while Allgaier rocketed from fourth to second as Annett and Haley followed. The action was brief however as Ray Black Jr., Stephen Leicht and Matt Mills crashed in turn two with 12 laps left, resulting in the final caution flag of the day.

Racing resumed with seven laps left and Custer again held serve over Allgaier, with Haley slipping past Annett to take over third. Allgaier tried to hang on the bumper of Custer, but Custer slowly inched away to his seventh victory of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

“We didn’t have the track position all day,” Custer said. “We fought it a little bit. We kind of tried something new this race. I’ve wanted to win here so bad for so long. I’ve been close a number of times.”

The triumph also earned Custer the traditional Monster trophy, which got a gold makeover this year to celebrate Dover’s 50th anniversary.

“Just to win the gold monster, it’s unbelievable,” Custer said. “I just can’t thank everybody at the shop. Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) with a great pit call. I can’t believe it turned out that way.”

Allgaier settled for second after leading 67 laps. Austin Cindric slipped by Haley with two laps left to finish third, with Haley and polesitter Chase Briscoe completing the top-five.

Saturday’s race was the final race in the first round of the Xfinity Series playoffs. Haley, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones were the four drivers who failed to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Custer will be joined by Christopher Bell, Allgaier, Tyler Reddick, Briscoe, Cindric, Noah Gragson and Annett in the second round of the playoffs, which begins Oct. 19 at Kansas Speedway.

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