- Sports Staff
NASCAR Sports Update: Rookie Cole Custer stuns the racing world (7/12/20) By: Josh Scott
Cole Custer made a four-wide pass for the lead on the final lap to win the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday. The Landra Ranch, CA driver then proceeded to hold off 2018 champion Martin Truex Jr, by .271 seconds, en route to his first-ever Cup Series win. Custer becomes the first rookie since 2016 to win in his first full-time season. With this win, Custer automatically locks himself in as one of the 16 drivers that will compete for the championship in the Cup Series Playoffs.
Matt DiBenedetto finished third followed by Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, who won last year's race. Ryan Blaney, rookie Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, and rookie Tyler Reddick rounded out the top 10. Jimmie Johnson finished 18th in his return to the track after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. The seven-time champion made a late block on Keselowski while running third, with 18 laps remaining, which ended up spinning his number 48 car. Johnson rallied to finish 18th.
Almirola, who led a race-high 128 laps, won Stage One. His eighth-place finish ends a streak of five straight top-five finishes. Keselowski captured the Stage Two victory.
The win initially looked like it would come down to a battle between Truex and Harvick, who swapped the lead back and forth late in the race. However, when Matt Kenseth lost control of his number 42 car with five laps to go, a restart soon followed. Harvick and Truex would restart first and second while Custer restarted sixth. On the break, Harvick quickly jumped ahead with the lead, but Truex rallied back and drew alongside "The Closer" in turn three. While the two champions battled side-by-side, the inside lane was left open for Blaney, who made it three-wide for the lead. In the midst of this intense battle, no one accounted for Custer who ended up driving around the outside of all three drivers, in turn one on the final lap, snatching the win away.
The Cup Series travels to Bristol Motor Speedway next on Wednesday night for NASCAR's annual All-Star Race on Fox Sports 1. This is the first time that BMS will host the event. As tradition, the winner of the exhibition race will receive a prize of one million dollars.
Kevin Harvick continues to dominate the points standings, now ahead of second-place Brad Keselowski by 88 points. Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano complete the top five. Nine races remain until NASCAR's Playoffs begin. Jimmie Johnson currently holds the sixteenth and final spot to qualify, by 24 points, over Austin Dillon.