HOMESTEAD, Fla – Cole Custer just found out this week that he’s being promoted. Stewart-Haas Racing has elected to replace Daniel Suarez with Custer in the No. 41 Ford in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition for 2020.
For Custer, it’s obviously good news, but he will leave his NASCAR XFINITY Series career with a bitter taste in his mouth.
In 2018, Custer finished second in the final standings to Tyler Reddick. That’s because Reddick had a really good race car in last year’s race on the 1.5-mile track and despite Custer leading 95 of the 200 laps run in 2018, Reddick finished first and Custer second.
Saturday’s season finale shaped up to be the same way. They started 1st (Reddick) and 2nd (Reddick). They’d both run up front for most of the day too. But, the one mistake that Custer made could have cost him a shot at the win in the end.
See, Reddick was solid in finishing fourth in both stages. Custer, was second in Stage 1 and running well in Stage 2 before he felt a bad vibration in his No. 00 Ford. With having just pit not too long before that, he feared a loose wheel.
It got so bad, he had to pit on Lap 60. His fears were correct, his right rear tire was loose. It was the right move though to pit but he fell to 32nd, one lap down as a result. With a clean second stage until the end, Custer was likely going to have to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap.
But, his new tires from his stop was the potentially winning move. It got him much needed speed and he was able to move up through the field to un lap himself just prior to the Lap 89 caution for debris in Turn 1.
Instead of the wave around at the stage break, he was back on the lead lap. He could pit with the leaders and now be back in the game.
Custer, would run up front and even take the lead on Lap 167. The win that eluded him last year looked to be in his grasps. But, Reddick was just that much better again. Reddick, got by Custer on Lap 181 and set sails on his second straight Homestead win and second straight victory.
Custer, would follow him across the finish line and come home 1.038-seconds arrears. It was his second straight runner-up to Reddick in both Homestead as well as the championship too.
Custer, can hang his hat on seven of his nine career NXS wins coming this season. He had nine top 10 finishes over his last 10 starts of the season. This was also his third straight top two result on the 1.5-mile track as well.
Now, he moves up to Cup with Reddick as both will hope to compete for championships in NASCAR’s premiere series soon.