Numerous restarts at the end of the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 provided for a choppy but ultimately exciting race at the always challenging Kentucky Speedway on Sunday. It ended with rookie Cole Custer coming out of nowhere and pulling off a stunning surprise victory while making NASCAR history in the process.
Make no mistake about it, Cole Custer isn’t new to success. It’s just now the rest of the world is learning about the driver, whose name sounds like it was lifted from the Disney movie “Cars,” and his ability to maneuver a vehicle and navigate a track as good or better than the best drivers in the business, but is half their age.
Cole Custer starts winning early
Cole Custer is the definition of racing prodigy. He started at four. Yes, four. And he started with quarter midgets—kind of apropos. In 2011, Custer won the USAC National Focus Young Guns Championship at age 13. A year later, he won 10 races racing late models and earned Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2013, at 15, Custer joined the K&N Pro Series East. At the season’s race at the Iowa Speedway, Custer won the pole position, led every lap, and won the race, becoming the youngest winner in K&N Pro Series history at age 15. A year later, Custer made his debut with the NASCAR Truck Series.
In September 2014, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Cole Custer won the UNOH 175 from the pole, becoming the youngest winner in the history of NASCAR’s national touring series at 16 years, 7 months and 28 days. Custer won a second time in 2015 before moving up to the Xfinity Series. With Xfinity in 2018 and 2019, Custer tallied nine wins and finished second in the points standings both seasons.
Custer has steadily improved on Cup Series
Two years ago, Cole Custer made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Las Vegas. He finished 25th at the Pennzoil 400. He raced twice more with the Cup Series in 2018 and didn’t participate in any races in 2019.
This year, Custer has held his own and shown glimpses of his greatness. In Phoenix, he earned the first top-10 of his career finishing ninth in the final race before the pandemic-induced hiatus.
Since NASCAR’s return, Cole Custer has consistently finished in the top 20, and had his best finish on July 4 weekend in Indianapolis at the Brickyard 400 where he earned a hard-fought fifth-place. It was a precursor of things to come.
Cole Custer wins Cup Series race as rookie
A week after his career-best Cup Series finish at Indy, Cole Custer arrived in Kentucky for the Quaker State 400 feeling confident. It didn’t hurt that the last time he raced there, he won the Alsco 300 on the Xfinity Series a year to the day.
With multiple restarts at the end of the race, Custer steadily inched his way forward. When the race reached the final green-white-checker restart, he sat in sixth place on the outside. On the restart, Custer went three wide and got a solid push by Matthew DiBenedetto and made a big run down the straightaway.
Custer went four-wide at the white flag alongside Martin Truex, Dave Blaney, and Kevin Harvick. As Harvick and Blaney banged together down low on the final lap, Truex wobbled in the traffic allowing a cool Custer to slide by on the outside unscathed. He held off Truex on the final two turns to earn his first Cup Series victory and become the first rookie winner at Kentucky and first on the Series since 2016.
Cole Custer has been on the fast track to success since he was four years old. Now that he’s broken through on the Cup Series as a rookie, expect to hear a lot more from that driver who has a Disney-character sounding name that rhymes with gold luster. As in the shine from the trophies he’s sure to add to his collection in the very near future.