JOLIET, Ill. – Cole Custer took no prisoners en route to a dominant victory in Saturday’s Camping World 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Custer took the top spot for the first time on lap three and controlled the day, leading 151 of 200 laps for his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the season, tied with rival Christopher Bell for the series lead.
The 21-year-old from Ladera Ranch, Calif., was virtually unstoppable in his quest to reach victory lane, taking the checkered flag 2.917 seconds in front of defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano.
“This is a statement that we’re going to hit it hard through this summer,” Custer said after climbing from his car in celebration. “I think we have some great cars. Mike Shiplett and my guys have done an awesome job. I don’t know how we could have gotten the car any better on that last run. I’m pumped.”
Custer won the opening stage and only lost out on sweeping the first two stages when he pitted late in the second stage for fresh tires, then couldn’t get through traffic in time before the lap-90 benchmark.
However, Custer stayed out at the start of the final stage and took command, driving out to a comfortable advantage before making his last green-flag pit stop with 46 laps left, forced to pit road by Logano when the latter driver short-pitted in an attempt to leapfrog Custer.
That handed the race lead to Michael Annett, who stayed out because he was short on tires and led for 25 consecutive laps, ultimately catching a lucky caution when BJ McLeod tagged the wall with 28 to go.
Annett was able to get back on even ground and won the race off pit road, but neither he nor his JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson could hold Custer back on the final restart of the day.
Custer went to the apron and blasted by both Gragson and Annett, moving from third back into a lead he would never relinquish again.
Logano rolled past Annett for second with 19 laps left, but had nothing to be able to chase down Custer in the final laps.
Asked where Custer had him beat, Logano laughed before quipping, “At Chicagoland Speedway.
“They did a good job today. They had the fastest car from the opening round of practice; it was obvious when we were looking at the lap chart,” added Logano, who beat Custer in the second stage. “Cole did an amazing job. He ran right up next to the wall and got as close (to it) as anyone all day long.
“It’s fun to come down to this level and see the up-and-coming talent; he’s ready for (the Cup Series), I can tell you that much.”
Christopher Bell crossed the line third, but was disqualified from that position after his car failed post-race technical inspection.
That elevated Annett to a third-place finish, with Brandon Jones and Austin Cindrick completing the top five.
Gragson was sixth in the adjusted rundown, followed by Justin Haley, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Riley Herbst.
The race was slowed by six caution flags, including three solo spins, and featured 10 lead changes among five different drivers.