FONTANA, Calif. — A day after winning the Xfinity race, Cole Custer was suddenly summoned to Auto Club Speedway on Sunday to serve as a standby driver for an ailing Austin Dillon, who starts on the pole.
Custer, who remained in Southern California after Saturday’s Xfinity race, told NBC Sports he got a call Sunday while “eating a jumbo platter at a fast food restaurant” about 90 minutes before the scheduled start of the Cup race.
The arrangement is unusual in that Custer is a Ford driver and Dillon drives for a Chevrolet team. But with the series on the West Coast and most Xfinity drivers gone, there were few choices for the Richard Childress Racing team.
Car owner Richard Childress said both Ford and Chevrolet approved Custer being put on standby for Dillon.
“I think he’ll go,” Childress said on pit road shortly before the race. “You’ll have to go and pry him out of the car. He’ll drive it. He’s just so weak. He said, I’m not as bad feeling, I’m just so weak right now.”
On a parade lap before Sunday’s race, Dillon radioed his team: “I think I’ve got the flu but am feeling better. I think the racing will help.”
Custer has three career Cup starts, all coming last season. He raced at Las Vegas, Pocono and Richmond last year for Rick Ware Racing. His best finish was 25th at Las Vegas.