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NASCAR Xfinity: Cole Custer closes playoff round one with Dover win

DOVER, DELAWARE – OCTOBER 05: Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Production Alliance Group Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway on October 05, 2019 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Cole Custer led more than a quarter of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in May but wasn’t able to collect the win. When the series returned to Dover for Saturday’s Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200, he posted a much smaller 31 laps-led tally, but this time around he managed the win in his 100th-career Xfinity Series race. Saturday’s win was Custer’s seventh of the season, tying him with series leader Christopher Bell. He and Bell also closed the first round of the 2019 playoffs as the only playoff drivers with round-one wins.

“I have wanted to win this trophy and this race for such a long time,” Custer said. “We got really close here a couple times in a truck and a couple times in the Xfinity car. To finally win is pretty huge. It is a trophy everyone wants and a track everyone wants to win at. It is pretty huge.”

Fellow-playoff drivers Justin Allgaier and Austin Cindric finished second and third.

The yellow flag waved for the fifth time when Dillon Bassett spun with 23 laps remaining, before a cycle of green-flag pit stops completed. The caution came with Custer, Michael Annett and Justin Haley as the only three drivers on the lead lap, not having made a green-flag stop. Allgaier, who had already stopped under green, got the free pass back onto the lead lap, and Cindric and Chase Briscoe took wave-arounds, having also already pitted.

“You don’t know until everybody cycles around, but I knew we were probably in a good spot staying out, there,” Custer said. “It was a great pit call by Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) to stay out. It is all about track position here. Whatever you can do on strategy and pit stops to get track position, it is what you need to do.”

Custer was the first off pit road after getting to pit under the caution, and when the race restarted, Allgaier moved into second. They maintained their positions for the remaining laps including another restart in the final 10 laps of the 200-lap race.

Haley and Briscoe rounded out the top-five. Despite the top-five finish, Haley, nearly in a must-win situation to advance to playoff round two, was eliminated from the playoffs after Dover. Eighth-place finisher John Hunter Nemechek, 10th-place finisher Ryan Sieg, and 37th-place finisher Brandon Jones also were eliminated.

Jones and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Harrison Burton’s efforts ended almost as soon as they began when they, along with playoff driver Tyler Reddick, were involved in a lap-one incident. Reddick was able to continue but was never a factor near the front. Reddick was able to advance to the next round of the playoffs by virtue of a points cushion with which he entered Saturday’s race. He finished the race in the 12th position.

Briscoe won the pole for the second-consecutive Xfinity Series race earlier in the day Saturday, but because of an unapproved change before the green flag, he had to drop to the back for the start of the race. Meanwhile, Cindric took the lead on lap one and led the first 26 laps.

Allgaier took the lead on a lap-27 restart and remained up front for the remainder of the opening stage that ended on lap 45 and through the duration of the second stage that ended at lap 90. Briscoe had raced into the top-10 by the end of the first stage and was up to third in the running order by the end of stage two. He took the lead from Allgaier on lap 98.

“It is encouraging how fast of a car we had, but that is two weeks in a row I feel like we had the best race car and didn’t get the win,” Briscoe said. “There are so many circumstances that go into winning these races, and one little thing that you don’t catch at the right time just kills you. It is really good that we are moving on to the next round of the playoffs, but at the same time, if we hadn’t had to go to the back, we probably would have had seven points going into the next round, and that would have been big. It is frustrating to have a winning race car and not win with it, but it is nice that we have had really fast Mustangs, and that is encouraging going into the next round. Hopefully, we can have just as fast race cars but seal the deal.”

Briscoe gave up his lead during the late-race, green-flag cycle of stops on lap 169.

Annett finished sixth and Gragson was seventh, both advancing in the playoffs. Part-time driver Zane Smith also finished in the top-10 in ninth.

The remaining playoff driver, Bell, wound up 25th, 34 laps down, after spending a significant amount of time in the garage because of a mechanical issue. He headed to the garage before lap 20 but was able to return to the track to make laps.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Use Your Melon Driver Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway:

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Posted by on October 6, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR,NASCAR Xfinity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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