LONG POND, Pa. – Cole Custer dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway, but it took a pass on the last lap for him to earn a trip to victory lane.
Custer, who started from the pole, drove by Tyler Reddick in the last corner on the last lap after an overtime restart to win the Pocono Green 250. It was Custer’s third victory of the season, a personal best for the California native.
Custer had a comfortable lead of more than eight seconds after the final round of pit stops and looked set to cruise to victory until the caution flag waved with seven laps left when Jeffrey Earnhardt spun in turn two after contact with Austin Cindric.
During the caution period Reddick was one of a handful of drivers to hit pit road. His team had two fresh tires left behind the pit wall and the bolted them on the left side of his Chevrolet and sent him back out on track to restart eighth.
The green flag waved again with three laps left in regulation, but the field didn’t make it through turn one before the caution waved again. This time the caution flag was for a spin by stage two winner Justin Allgaier, who lost control of his car in the middle of the corner.
That set up an overtime restart with Custer leading his teammate Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell and Reddick, who had advanced four positions during the previous restart. Custer chose the outside for the restart, meaning he would be lined up in front of fourth-place Reddick.
When the green flag waved over the field Reddick gave Custer a big push down the fronstretch, allowing both drives to clear the inside line heading towards turn one. Reddick saw his opening and dove to Custer’s inside entering the turn. Reddick emerged with the lead, but the race wasn’t over.
Custer stayed right in Reddick’s tire tracks as they came to the white flag, with Reddick darting back and fourth across the track in an effort to break the draft. Custer stayed patient and followed him until they got to turn three, at which point Reddick’s car didn’t stay on the bottom and slid up the track.
Custer seized the opportunity, slicing under Reddick to regain the lead and steal the victory in the final corner.
“Tyler gave me a great push down there, but I have no idea how he made it stick when he drove down in there into turn one,” said Custer, who led a race-high 59 laps. “I was nervous once he got by me, but drove into the corner real deal (on the last lap) and went up the track a little bit. I had my downshift planned right and was able to get by him.”
Reddick, who started at the rear because of a transmission change prior to the start of the race, admitted his car simply got loose in the final corner.
“We got a really good restart to get by Cole,” Reddick said. “I was just so tight out front. Even out front in clean air I was just too tight to really hold the bottom that well. I probably could have held the bottom, I’m not going to lie to you. I just thought I was going to be really tight going through three, so I put some rear brake in it and I just got loose in three and pretty much gave it right back to him.”
Briscoe finished third, followed by Ryan Preece and Bell.
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