Cole Custer captures first Cup Series Top-10 at Phoenix

Photo By: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP

By: Sarah Handy, Staff Writer

Stewart-Haas Racing Rookie Cole Custer checked one milestone off as he crossed the finish line in Sunday’s FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

His first NASCAR Cup Series Top-10 finish.

Custer’s No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang rolled off the starting grid 16th for the fourth event of the young season.

In fact, throughout the first stage Custer continued to complain that his Ford Mustang was experiencing tight conditions.

Then an accident on Lap-65 involving Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski brought out the caution flag with Custer opting to stay out on track where he would restart in the 12th position. As Stage 1 came to a conclusion, he would finish the stage in 12th as his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won the stage.

Throughout Stage 2, Custer consistently ran inside the Top-15, his Ford was good on the long run but still rather tight. He would finish Stage 2 in the 10th position. At the stage break he came back down pit road for fuel, tires and adjustments.

A Lap-215 caution brought him back down pit road from the 17th position for four tires, and fuel. He’d restart 16th. He would continue to run within the Top-20 running order until a caution with 47 laps to go.

As a result, Crew Chief Mike Shiplett told Custer to stay out on track, where he gained valuable track position going from 16th to sixth. As another caution waved on lap 277, he pitted from 13th for four tires, fuel and an adjustment.

Custer was able to work his way into the Top-10, crossing the finish line at Phoenix Raceway in ninth for his first Top-10 finish in the Cup Series.

“This was huge. It is a huge boost in our step to have a really solid day and fast Mustang,” expressed Custer. “We overcame obstacles all weekend and hopefully we can continue to carry that all through the year. I think we get better every single race, so it is just a matter of continuing that and doing that every single weekend.”

Up next the NASCAR Cup series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

Additionally, in three previous NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta, Custer has one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His best finish is second, one year ago after starting on the pole.

In addition, his lone Truck Series start at the track in 2016 resulted in a 17th place finish.

Cole Custer currently sits 22nd in the driver points standings.

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