Cole Custer’s Crucial Block for Chase Briscoe Deservedly Piques NASCAR’s Interest Even if He’s Established Plausible Deniability
We knew Cole Custer would eventually do something noteworthy in a Cup Series race if we waited long enough. The only suspense now revolves around whether the driver of the No. 41 Ford goes to NASCAR jail.
Sunday’s race on the Charlotte Roval had a wild finish as well as a controversy that will dominate the news all week. Thus, the second elimination race of the playoffs was just like too many other recent races. At this rate, NASCAR might as well re-brand itself as WWE Light.
Cole Custer changed the outcome of the NASCAR elimination race
NASCAR is reviewing data, video, and radio transmissions from Cole Custer’s No. 41 Ford after he slowed on the backstretch of the final lap on the Charlotte Roval, helping Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe to narrowly advance to the Cup Series round of eight, the sport’s governing body said Sunday.
The announcement said NASCAR will release its findings this week but added that any potential penalties would not affect the field for the next set of playoff races, which will determine participants in the Championship 4.
Custer, a virtual non-entity the past two seasons with no wins and five top-10 results in 68 races, was running eighth on the last lap, and Briscoe was 12th. At that moment, Briscoe was tied for the final transfer position with Kyle Larson but held the tiebreaker.
Heading down the backstretch, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, and Briscoe all came up behind Custer. As Briscoe completed a pass on Jones, Custer’s car slowed, jamming up Dillon and allowing Briscoe to fly by on the inside.
“Cole Custer, throwing a block on everybody!” analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. screamed on the NBC telecast.
Briscoe crossed the finish line in ninth place, besting defending Cup Series champion Larson by two points for the final transfer spot.
Injuries and all, Saquon Barkley would be a 2,000-yards-a-year running back every year with that kind of blocking.
NASCAR will investigate and can levy penalties
According to NBC Sports, the current NASCAR penalty for attempting to manipulate the outcome of a race is the loss of 25 to 50 driver and team owner points and a fine of between $50,000 and $100,000.
But Cole Custer may have learned a lesson from William Byron in anticipation of NASCAR dissecting every aspect of that final lap beginning Monday. Unlike Byron, who all but convicted himself with his own words after the Denny Hamlin incident at Texas Motor Speedway, Custer established plausible deniability after the racing was over in Charlotte.
“Tried to pass (Tyler Reddick), he drove me down the apron on Oval 1,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said, according to a tweet from Racing America editor Matt Weaver. “I came back on track with a vibration, team yelled at me that I had a flat so I eased it in the corner to see what I had. I got ran over by (Austin Dillon) twice. Thought I had a flat, had a vibration, got ran over.”
You’ll hear plenty this week about ‘Spingate’ at Richmond in 2013
NASCAR will make the call on whether Cole Custer’s actions, which contributed to Chase Briscoe advancing in the Cup Series playoffs, were untoward. There’s certainly been chicanery over the years, sometimes in crucial races. That’s why the 2013 Federated Auto Parts 400 will be the subject of lots of chatter this week.
That race at Richmond International Raceway concluded the Cup Series regular season, with Carl Edwards scoring the victory over Kurt Busch. But that was hardly the story of the day. Rather, NASCAR ultimately determined that two veteran drivers manipulated the results in the late laps to secure a playoff berth for a Michael Waltrip Racing teammate.
First, Clint Bowyer, now an analyst for Fox Sports, intentionally triggered a caution by spinning out on Turn 4. On the restart, Brian Vickers went to the pits to allow MWR’s Martin Truex Jr. to pick up a crucial position that helped clinch a playoff berth over Ryan Newman.
The result of “Spingate” was swift retribution a day later by NASCAR, which fined Michael Waltrip Racing $300,000, setting a record. Bowyer and Truex were docked 50 driver points, costing the latter a playoff berth.
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