Cole Custer Recovers for Top-10 Finish at Richmond

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer recovered to finish inside the top-10 after concerns about his tires forced him to pit road with under 30 laps to go in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway.

When the caution waved with 77 laps to go, the defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion opted not to pit. The driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse, like several others, were banking on another caution in the 250-lap race. However, that caution never came. If he could have done it over again, Custer would have made a different decision.

“If we could do it again, we would have pitted,” Custer explained. “We talked about it for five days coming here. It just seemed like that was not enough laps on your tires to really take that chance to not have a set at the end. The field was split on it, so that just shows how hard of a decision it was. It obviously worked out for those guys, but it can go either way on that.”

With 27 laps to go at ‘The Action Track,’ Custer was forced to pit. The Goodyear Racing tires on his car were worn from over 50 laps of racing. The 26-year-old was confused about the ‘strange’ wear of his tires.

“I felt like we definitely chased the car a little bit at the start,” Custer admitted. “We were solid and I thought we got the car pretty good that last stage and the tires just got killed somehow. Something was very strange with the tires with how you could hurt them.

“I didn’t even feel like I was going hard, and it just went really bad, so we were able to salvage pitting there. JT (Johnathon Toney, crew chief) did some good strategy to get us a good finish, but it was definitely a strange day with the tires, and we’ll just have to move on to the next one. I think we had something, but I’m just a little bit confused on the tires.”

With fresh tires, Custer raced like ‘Superman,’ slicing through cars on both the inside and outside of the track. Though he lost two laps on pit road, he quickly regained one lap, passing leader, and eventual race winner, Chandler Smith.

The dramatic difference of fresh and worn tires allowed Smith to set a torrid pace, lapping all the way up to ninth. That benefited Custer, allowing him to climb up the running order. On the final lap the Ladera Ranch, Calif. native took 10th from Justin Allgaier.

“That was fun,” Custer said. “It was a lot of fun trying to go back through the field when we took tires, so that was definitely the highlight of the day, I’ll say that because I was able to just blow by everybody.”

Although he started third, Custer finished in the back half of the top-10 of each of the two stages. Ending the stages in eighth and ninth respectively, he picked up five additional points.

The 10th-place finish was Custer’s fourth top-10 of the 2024 season. It also marked his 100th career top-10 finish in 149 starts in Xfinity competition. He is the 36th driver to earn 100 or more top-10 finishes in the Xfinity Series.

The top-10 finish keeps Custer third in points. He is 41-points behind leader Smith and is 93-points ahead of the playoff cutline, currently held by Anthony Alfredo.

Next for Custer is the Dude Wipes 250 at Martinsville Speedway. In two starts in the Xfinity Series at ‘The Paperclip,’ he has one top-five finish and one pole position.

The Dude Wipes 250 at Martinsville is scheduled for Saturday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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