Jimmie Johnson‘s team is among three Cup teams that will be penalized track time during today’s practice session at ISM Raceway, NASCAR announced Friday morning.
Johnson’s team will lose 30 minutes for failing pre-race inspection three times last weekend at Las Vegas. The No. 15 team with Ross Chastain faces the same penalty for the same infraction.
Matt DiBenedetto‘s team will lose 15 minutes for failing pre-race inspection twice last weekend at Las Vegas.
Cup teams have a 50-minute practice from 12:35 – 1:25 p.m. ET today.
In the Xfinity Series, the cars of Kaz Grala, Chad Finchum, Josh Bilicki, Timmy Hill and Cole Custer will each be docked 15 minutes of practice. The teams of Grala, Finchum, Bilicki and Hill are penalized for being out of the garage late for inspection last weekend at Las Vegas. Custer’s team is penalized for failing pre-race inspection twice last weekend at Las Vegas.
Those penalties will be served in the first Xfinity practice, which is from 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. ET.
One of the more surreal moments of Cole Custer‘s Cup debut came in the middle of Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Looking out the windshield of his No. 51 Ford, Custer boredown on none other than seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
“It was definitely kind of surreal racing against some of those guys out there,” Custer told NBC Sports two days after his 25th-place finish in the Pennzoil 400.
When Johnson made his Cup debut in October 2001 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Custer was 3 years old.
Now 20, Custer is the latest member of NASCAR’s youth movement at the Cup level, albeit one race for now. Custer’s full-time job is driving Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 00 Ford in the Xfinity Series.
After starting 30th, Custer quickly found out his level of aggression in the lower series won’t cut it in the premier series.
“The restarts are always pretty crazy so it’s hard to just jump right in there and be really aggressive when you don’t really know what the car’s going to be doing around 10 other cars,” Custer said. “Just getting used to that and what it felt like and everything. That was probably the biggest thing and really just trying to get used to the track bar adjuster and just really the whole weekend. I’ve never had to do a qualifying trim setup. Just the whole weekend in general was a new experience.”
“I was definitely pretty nervous, just trying to get used to not really knowing what to expect,” Custer said. “You do all the preparation you can leading up to it, watching a lot of video and looking at data and stuff like that. But it still really isn’t enough because you still have to try and get a feel for the car and what it feels at the end of the straightaways and the corners and the motor. It’s just a lot to take in.”
On Sunday, he drove the No. 51 owned by Rick Ware Racing with support from SHR.
Custer attempted to approach the race like it was any other, despite the fact he was racing against drivers like Johnson for the first time on their level.
“For a first race I think it’s acceptable that we brought our car home,” Custer said. “Didn’t really have any scratches on it or anything.”
But it took until last November for Custer to be convinced he was worthy of competing in the Cup Series.
It came when he put together the most dominating performance of his young career in the Xfinity Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
After earning seven top 10s in the previous eight races, Custer led 182 of 200 laps and beat Sam Hornish Jr. by 15.4 seconds.
“When I was going into Xfinity last year I didn’t have the highest confidence or anything,” Custer said.
He attributed it to a lackluster final season in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016. He failed to win in 23 races and had five top fives. He had won one race in each of the previous two seasons as a part-time driver.
“By the end of (2017) I felt I had a decent amount of confidence and we won that race and that kind of makes you feel like you can kind of do it,” Custer said.
Custer believed a good day for his first outing would have been a top-20 finish. But he still managed to give Rick Ware Racing its best finish at a non-restrictor-plate track in 33 Cup starts (Justin Marks finished 12th in the Daytona 500).
Custer was surprised by one thing.
“It was actually not the hardest race in the world,” Custer said. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder. I thought the Xfinity race was actually a little harder than the Cup race, just because Saturday I was running around a lot more and had practices and qualifying and the race. So there was a lot more going on. The Cup race wasn’t too bad, I was surprised by that.”
As a native of Ladera Ranch, California, there was only one downside to his busy weekend.
He didn’t get the chance to enjoy his favorite fast food chain, In-N-Out Burger.
“I didn’t have any in Vegas because I was doing double duty, but I’m definitely going to get something next week in Fontana,” Custer said. “That’s always my No. 1 place to go.”
Harvick took the lead during a green-flag pit cycle with 37 laps to go and cruised to his 39th career Cup win and second at Las Vegas. He will go for his third consecutive win next weekend at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway). Joey Logano was the last driver to win three races in a row, doing so in the 2015 playoffs at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega.
Sunday’s win was Harvick’s 100th career across NASCAR’s top three series. He becomes the fourth driver in NASCAR history to win 100 or more national series races, joining Richard Petty, Kyle Busch and David Pearson.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kevin Harvick
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick
HOW DID KEVIN HARVICK WIN: For the second weekend in a row, Kevin Harvick had the best car and there was no way anyone was going to beat him unless something happened to him.
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Team Penske’s drivers finished fifth, sixth and seventh, extending top-10 streaks at Las Vegas. Ryan Blaney placed fifth (third consecutive top-10 at Vegas). Brad Keselowski was sixth (sixth top 10 in a row at Vegas). Joey Logano was seventh (fifth top 10 in a row at Vegas). … Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth for his second consecutive top-five finish. … Erik Jones (eighth) scored his first top-10 finish of the season. … Aric Almirola placed 10th for his first top-10 result of the year. … Cole Custer placed 25th in his Cup debut.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE:Chase Elliott was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver on the lead lap for more than half the race but saw his race end when Kurt Busch got into his car and both wrecked. Elliott finished 34th. Busch placed 35th. … Denny Hamlin got hit with a speeding penalty entering pit road and finished two laps down in 17th. … Rookie William Byron struggled, finishing four laps behind the leaders in 27th.
NOTABLE: In his last four races on 1.5-mile tracks, dating back to last season, Kevin Harvick has three wins and finished no worse than fourth. … Kevin Harvick’s fast start has already given him 13 points with two race victories and three stage wins.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t know about catching (Kevin Harvick). He was quite a bit faster than everybody,’’ Kyle Larson after finishing third.
NEXT: The Cup series races at 3:30 p.m. ET March 11 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.
“They did a great jump of adjusting me round to round,” Blaney told FS1. “Our team does such a good job of getting us better each round, We definitely did that. Really cool to have a lot of speed. … The wind was crazy, it kept blowing you around into (Turn 3).”
Team Penske has won the pole for three of the past five races at Las Vegas, including the last two.
Harvick will start on the front row for the first time since last fall’s race at Kansas Speedway. It’s his first time on the front row at Las Vegas.
“I had to lift pretty late (coming to the green flag), the front tires (were) chattering coming off the corner there,” Harvick told FS1. “The rest of the lap was OK, it was a little bit free but it was very manageable. When it starts pushing like that you got to let off so it doesn’t get out of the groove. ”