Custer wins four-wide battle for maiden NASCAR Cup win at Kentucky

Cole Custer claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup victory in a last-lap dash to the flag at the Kentucky Speedway, winning out in a four-wide battle for the lead

Custer wins four-wide battle for maiden NASCAR Cup win at Kentucky

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver went four abreast with long time race leaders Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney as they took the white flag to signal the final lap of the 400-mile race.

Custer just managed to edge out the more experienced drivers and had a car-length's gap to Truex as he took the chequered flag.

The victory makes Custer this season's ninth different winner and the first rookie to visit Victory Road this season.

Custer had spent most of the race towards the front of the field, but it was only within the final laps that he came to challenge for the lead.

Truex led much of the second half of the race, despite having started from the back of the grid after failing the pre-race inspection.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made quick work of climbing back into the top 10, and at the start of the second stage he brought the fight to Brad Keselowski for the race lead, quickly dispatching the Penske driver and building a gap of almost three seconds before the final scheduled pit stop window opened.

Up until that point the race had been relatively clean, with only one caution due to a spin from Matt Kenseth early in the race.

That changed during the final pit stop window, and just after Truex and Blaney exited the pits, a caution was thrown when Brendon Poole suffered tyre damage and left debris across the track.

This was the start of a slew of pit stops in the final 50 laps of the race.

On each restart, Truex and Blaney were alone in the battle for the lead, swapping positions before an accident further down the order paused racing again.

Then, on the penultimate restart, Harvick shot past the duo to take the race lead, only for another spin from Kenseth to bring out the yellow flags again with seven laps remaining.

Truex couldn't hold off Custer on the restart, but stayed ahead of Harvick to take second.

The four-wide battle put Harvick and Blaney at a disadvantage, with Harvick's car surrounded by plumes of smoke from tyre rub, helping Matt DiBenedetto to snatch third.

Harvick finished fourth, ahead of Kurt Busch and Blaney, who had spent the entire race needing to hold the car in gear through turns one and two thanks to a broken shifter.

Jimmie Johnson put in a strong performance after missing the Indianapolis race due to COVID-19; starting the race 20th, he had already made up five places in the opening six laps.

Despite a vibration issue, he was able to join the fight at the front in the second half of the race.

However, that came undone just 18 laps before the chequered flag while running third as racing resumed after a caution brought out by John Hunter Nemechek.

As Keselowski was lining up a push behind him, Johnson tried to hold the inside line but spun, dropping down the order and bringing out the penultimate caution period.

He was able to continue, but finished P18.

Keselowski took ninth, behind Christopher Bell and early race leader Aric Almirola, whose streak of top five finishes came to an end with eighth, as Tyler Reddick completed the top 10.

Race results - 267 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 2h59m48.847s
2 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 0.271s
3 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing Ford 1.000s
4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 1.333s
5 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 1.511s
6 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 1.537s
7 Christopher Bell Leavine Family Racing Toyota 1.651s
8 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 1.788s
9 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 1.939s
10 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 1.944s
11 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 2.034s
12 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 2.068s
13 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 2.106s
14 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 2.151s
15 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 2.191s
16 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 2.382s
17 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 2.624s
18 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 2.668s
19 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 2.770s
20 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing Ford 2.806s
21 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 3.009s
22 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 3.133s
23 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 3.140s
24 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 3.326s
25 Matt Kenseth Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 3.611s
26 Daniel Suarez Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota 4.234s
27 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 2 Laps
28 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing Ford 3 Laps
29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 3 Laps
30 J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing Ford 7 Laps
31 Brennan Poole Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 8 Laps
32 Josh Bilicki Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 10 Laps
33 Garrett Smithley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 10 Laps
34 Joey Gase Petty Ware Racing Ford 10 Laps
35 Quin Houff StarCom Racing Chevrolet 12 Laps
36 John Hunter Nemechek Front Row Motorsports Ford Accident
37 Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports Toyota Electrical
38 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Transmission

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