Cole Custer was able to step up against some of the best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Saturday in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Chicago to finish seventh. However, the finish wasn’t exactly indicative of how well the rookie ran. Custer and the No. 00 Haas Automation team led 41 laps, and ran in the top-five, ahead of Cup drivers all race long.
“I was happy with that today. That is the best speed we’ve had all year in the Haas Automation Mustang. It was really good and a huge momentum builder,” Custer said in a team release. “That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a stock car, doing those crossover passes. I have respect for him (Kyle Larson) racing me clean there. That was a lot of fun.”
In a late race restart Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney made contact on the exit of turn two that put the No. 22 into the wall. With nowhere to go, Custer ran into Blaney, losing all of his track position. The car suffered light nose damage, and some right side damage after slightly rubbing the outside wall.
“Erik (Jones) was just pushing it. I think he knew he was probably in a bad spot and tried to keep it in the gas and forced Blaney in the wall. I was right behind it and couldn’t go anywhere. That is how it goes, though.”
A crucial caution on Lap 189 involving a spinning Ryan Reed assisted Custer in not losing a lap to fix the damage on his car. Custer restarted 16th and worked his way up to seventh by the time the checkered flag fell, rallying to earn his 13th top-10 of 2017 and his best finish since Darlington.
Next weekend the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Kentucky Speedway to begin the playoffs. Custer finds himself seeded eighth on the playoff grid, 20 points off of points leader William Byron. Custer finished 11th earlier this season at Kentucky and has qualified eighth in both appearances at the 1.5-mile track in Sparta, Kentucky.