NASCAR Cup Series regular Cole Custer had a winning return to the Xfinity Series Saturday at Auto Club Speedway.
Custer led a race-high 80 laps but had to survive three overtime attempts before taking the checkered flag. It’s his 10th career victory in NASCAR’s No. 2 national series.
His win is also the first in the Xfinity Series for SS Green Light Racing. The Bobby Dotter-owned team shares a technical alliance with Custer’s Cup team, Stewart-Haas Racing.
Custer’s crew had a rough day on pit road, where they lost multiple spots on several occasions. But a fast No. 07 Ford helped Custer overcome those issues.
“Man, that was just an awesome car,” Custer told Fox Sports. “That thing was a rocket ship all day. I can’t thank Bobby Dotter enough and everybody who was involved on this car. It was unreal how fast we were.”
Custer took the lead off a restart with six laps to go in scheduled distance (Lap 145 of 150). But a caution with four laps to go sent the race into overtime.
Then, on the second OT attempt, Jones got the worst of a clash between Sheldon Creed and Stefan Parsons ahead of him. Jones’ attempt to avoid them led to him sliding into the sand barrels at the entrance to pit road.
This caution flew just seconds before the leader took the white flag.
We'll set them up one more time. pic.twitter.com/7yJ45iKcMm
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) February 27, 2022
That brought out another caution before leader Custer could take the white flag, extending the race again. The race was then red-flagged (23 minutes, one second) for clean-up.
As overtime progressed, Anthony Alfredo emerged as a threat thanks to four fresh tires he had taken prior to the restart on Lap 145.
He restarted outside the top 20 after taking those tires. But through the multiple yellows, he rose all the way up to the front row, lining up alongside Custer for the third and final OT attempt.
On that restart, Alfredo got a push from Justin Allgaier on the inside. But Custer’s big run on the outside gave him the lead off Turn 2.
As Alfredo faded back, Noah Gragson climbed to second place. By then, however, Custer was too far ahead.
“I feel like (the car) was really close all day,” Gragson told Fox Sports. “Just struggled with the cloud cover and the temperature change and being too loose or too tight.
“… We finished third last weekend, finished second this weekend. Hopefully, we got some good points. This is not one of my good tracks, so I’ll take a second-place finish.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Trevor Bayne
STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, finished third in his first of seven races with Joe Gibbs Racing this season … AJ Allmendinger spent 50 laps off the lead lap after pitting under green at Lap 82 for a loose wheel, but recovered to finish seventh.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Jones had a top-five car Saturday, but only had a 33rd-place finish to show for it after his OT troubles … Landon Cassill was eliminated just six laps in when his No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet caught fire. Cassill climbed from the car and was later checked and released from the infield care center.
NOTABLE: Saturday’s 12 cautions set a new track record for the Xfinity Series.
NEXT: Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Saturday, Mar. 5, 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1