Cole Custer Wins Xfinity Race at Auto Club Speedway for His Third Career Win

FONTANA, CA – RIS – Cole Custer won his third career Xfinity race by holding off a hard-charging Kyle Busch to win the NASCAR Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway.  Busch dominated the first two stages until a pit stop with 33 laps to go was slow and left him in 14th place.  Busch made it back to second place, but Custer’s Ford Mustang was strong, and he crossed the finishing line for the win.

Busch was going for his 200th total wins in NASCAR’s three national divisions, and though many say he is going after Richard Petty’s win total, he is not.  Petty won all 200 races in the top Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series where Busch has 59 wins.

"Kyle, he's got to be one of the legends of our sport," Custer said. "To keep him (waiting) one more race for that 200th win is pretty great. I know he's probably pretty frustrated, though."

Custer is from Ladera Ranch, California, an affluent coastal community in Orange County about 55 miles south of Fontana and the place Custer considers his home track. The son of veteran racing executive Joe Custer earned his fifth overall victory across NASCAR's three major series — just 194 fewer than the 33-year-old Busch.

"It's a hometown race for our entire team, so I'm pretty pumped," Custer said. "It means a ton."

Cup regular drivers had won 23 consecutive Xfinity series races at Fontana since 2002, but Custer broke the streak at the expense of Busch, who led 98 of the 150 laps.

"Just a lack of grip there at the end," Busch said. "We just didn't have the speed we needed to keep up with (Custer)."

Christopher Bell was third.

Busch clearly was the class of the Fontana field under serious gusting winds on the weathered 2-mile asphalt track one hour east of Los Angeles.

He led each of the first two stages and was cruising toward his landmark win — but he lost seven spots of track position when his crew had a painfully slow pit stop with 35 laps to go, apparently making a mistake with the jack.

Busch's team was then hit with a penalty for an uncontrolled tire, pushing Busch back to 14th when the race resumed. He moved up to second with 15 laps to go, but he just couldn't catch Custer.

"I felt like we were honestly pretty good," Custer said. "It was just a matter of getting the track position and getting a tick better, and I think we accomplished all of that."

Busch started second and took the lead with a side draft on the opening lap of the Xfinity race on Saturday, and he only briefly gave back the lead before reclaiming it and finishing the first stage in front by a healthy 5 seconds.

He also led after the second stage, and he stayed in front under pressure from Tyler Reddick before the field slowed up in two cautions, leading to the decisive pit stop.

Unofficial Results: 21st Annual Production Alliance Group 300 - March 16, 2019 - Auto Club Speedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, Stage 1 Pos, Stage 2 Pos, Tms, Laps, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 
3, Cole Custer, No. 00 Thompson Pipe/Haas CNC Ford, 150, 3, 4, 4, 29, 5, 55, Running
2) 2, Kyle Busch(i), No. 18 iK9 Toyota, 150, 1, 1, 4, 98, , 0, Running
3) 4, Christopher Bell, No. 20 Rheem Toyota, 150, 9, 6, 2, 5, , 41, Running
4) 1, Tyler Reddick, No. 2 Hurdl Chevrolet, 150, 2, 2, 1, 10, , 51, Running
5) 6, Chase Briscoe #, No. 98 Nutri Chomps/C-A-L Ranch Ford, 150, , 10, , , , 33, Running
6) 11, Austin Cindric, No. 22 America's Tire/Discount Tire Ford, 150, 7, 8, , , , 38, Running
7) 9, Brandon Jones, No. 19 Menards Toyota, 150, , 5, , , , 36, Running
8) 7, Ryan Preece(i), No. 8 Velveeta Shells and Cheese Chevrolet, 150, 8, 7, , , , 0, Running
9) 8, Justin Allgaier, No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, 150, 4, 3, , , , 43, Running
10) 12, Justin Haley #, No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, 150, , , , , , 27, Running
11) 14, Ryan Sieg, No. 39 Lombard Bros. Gaming Chevrolet, 150, 10, , , , , 27, Running
12) 5, Noah Gragson #, No. 9 Switch Chevrolet, 150, 5, , 1, 3, , 31, Running
13) 16, Michael Annett, No. 1 Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet, 150, 6, 9, 1, 5, , 31, Running
14) 13, Jeremy Clements, No. 51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet, 150, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 18, Brandon Brown #, No. 86 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet, 150, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 17, Gray Gaulding, No. 08 GGPure.com/Flywheel Chevrolet, 150, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 21, Ray Black II, No. 07 ISOKERN Fire.&Chimney/Scuba Life Chev., 148, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 15, Ross Chastain, No. 4 RM Parks/EZ Angus Ranch Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 25, Garrett Smithley, No. 0 teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 23, Tommy Joe Martins, No. 99 Diamond Gusset Jeans Toyota, 146, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 28, David Starr, No. 52 Chasco Chevrolet, 146, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 29, Stephen Leicht, No. 01 teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet, 145, , , , , , 15, Running
23) 30, Matt Mills, No. 5 JF Electric Chevrolet, 145, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 27, BJ McLeod, No. 15 teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet, 143, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 33, Vinnie Miller, No. 78 Koolbox Chevrolet, 143, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 36, Mike Harmon, No. 74 Time for a Hero Chevrolet, 142, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 20, Joey Gase, No. 35 Dynamic Pay Toyota, 141, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 10, John Hunter Nemechek #, No. 23 Fire Alarm Services INC Chevrolet, 82, , , , , , 9, Accident
29) 22, Josh Bilicki, No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet, 79, , , , , , 8, Vibration
30) 35, John Jackson, No. 13 Street Toys/LasVegas.net Toyota, 50, , , , , , 7, Vibration
31) 34, Morgan Shepherd, No. 89 Visone RV Chevrolet, 43, , , , , , 6, Handling
32) 24, Chad Finchum, No. 42 Amana/Signarama Toyota, 39, , , , , , 5, Axle
33) 19, Josh Williams, No. 36 JoeFroyo Chevrolet, 37, , , , , , 4, Engine
34) 26, Timmy Hill, No. 66 CrashClaimsR.US Toyota, 34, , , , , , 3, Transmission
35) 31, Bayley Currey(i), No. 17 JACOB COMPANIES Chevrolet, 14, , , , , , 0, Overheating
36) 32, Jeff Green, No. 38 RSS Racing Chevrolet, 10, , , , , , 1, Brakes
37) 37, Caesar Bacarella, No. 90 Alpha Prime/MAXIM Chevrolet, 1, , , , , , 1, Vibration 
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie

Total Race Length - 150 Laps - 300. miles
Time of Race: 2 hr, 17 min, 43 sec. 
Average Speed: 130.703 mph
Margin of Victory: 1.927 sec

Stage 1 Top 10: 18, 2, 00, 7, 9, 1, 22, 8, 20, 39
Stage 2 Top 10: 18, 2, 7, 00, 19, 20, 8, 22, 1, 98

Race Comments: Cole Custer won the 21st Annual Production Alliance Group 300, his third victory in 76 Xfinity Series races. Prior to the start of the race, the following car(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: Nos. 13 (missed driver introductions) 90 (backup car).

Caution Flags: 5 for 28 laps; Laps: 37-41 (Stage 1 Conclusion [08]); 72-77 (Stage 2 Conclusion [9]); 85-89 (#23, #39 Incident on Frontstretch [None]); 112-117 (#22 Spin in Turn 4 [11]); 125-130 (#19 Incident Turn 3 [07]).

Lead Changes: 13 among 6 drivers; T. Reddick 0; K. Busch(i) 1; T. Reddick 2-11; K. Busch(i) 12-86; N. Gragson # 87-89; C. Custer 90-91; K. Busch(i) 92; C. Custer 93; K. Busch(i) 94-114; C. Bell 115-118; C. Custer 119-125; M. Annett 126-130; C. Bell 131; C. Custer 132-150.

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2019, Issue 3, Posted 8:29 PM, 03.16.2019