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Cole Custer Strong All Day, Finishes Second

Cole Custer competing during The LiUNA! at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Myk Crawford | The Podium Finish)

LAS VEGAS – The defending NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, Cole Custer, has had a slow start to the 2024 season, finishing outside the Top 10 at both Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Entering Saturday’s The LiUNA! at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Custer rolled off out front after winning the pole on Friday, looking for a good run to kickstart his season.

Although Custer started on the pole in his No. 00 Production Alliance Group Ford Mustang Dark Horse, it was clear very early on that the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s were going to be the ones to beat this afternoon. Chandler Smith, the driver of the No. 81 Quick Tie Products Inc. Toyota Supra, took the lead away from Custer in Turn Four on the first lap and never gave it back, leading all 45 laps en route to winning Stage 1. Custer battled inside of the Top 5 throughout the first stage before finishing fifth when the green and white checkered flag waved.

After Stage 1, Custer gained one spot on pit road and restarted in the fourth position on the bottom row to start Stage 2. Custer started the second stage strong but struggled as Stage 2 progressed. He began to fall back quickly through the Top 10. Custer was able to hold on for stage points and finish in ninth as Chandler Smith passed his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, John Hunter Nemechek, completing the sweep of the stages and winning Stage 2.

The final stage began on Lap 97, with Custer restarting in seventh. The final caution of the race came on Lap 123 after Parker Retzlaff’s car stalled at the end of pit road, ending his rough day after qualifying in fourth. This led to a 71-lap green flag run to end the race, in which Custer restarted seventh once again. On Lap 168, Custer made his final pit stop along with Las Vegas native and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Riley Herbst, Austin Hill, Jesse Love and Jeb Burton. The No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing team executed well on pit road, continuing to work on the car and getting Custer out smoothly. Once everyone made their last stop, Nemechek cruised to victory while Custer was able to get past both Smith and Hill in the closing laps to claim his best finish of the season thus far with a second-place finish.

“Hat’s off to my team. There was a point in the race where I didn’t know what to do. It was loose. It was tight. It was just kind of a handful and we had to manage it,” Custer said after the checkered flag. “They kept working on it all day and I think the track came to us a little bit and they just did a great job.”

Today’s second-place finish moved Custer up to fifth place in the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings, as the series heads to Phoenix Raceway on Saturday, March 9 for the second stop on NASCAR’s west coast swing.

“I can’t thank everybody enough on our time for fighting so hard. Everybody at Production Alliance Group, I wish we could have gotten a Ford Mustang Dark Horse in Victory Lane, but hopefully we can get ’em next week in Phoenix.”

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