Custer clinches championship berth with last-lap pass at Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas – In a race that produced a last-lap pass for the win, a record 13 cautions and an unmitigated disaster for favorite son Christopher Bell, Cole Custer moved past Tyler Reddick on the backstretch to win Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.Custer’s first victory of the season gave the driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford an automatic berth in the Nov. 17 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he dominated last year in winning for the first time in the series.Reddick led the field to green with two laps left, after the 13th caution, and held the top spot until Custer mounted a strong run off Turn 2 on Lap 200. The cars made side-to-side contact on the backstretch before Reddick surrendered the position, and Custer held on to win by .162 seconds, the third-closest finish in an Xfinity Series race at Texas.With his first win this season and the second of his career, Custer is the first of the Round of 8 drivers to clinch a chance at the championship in the season finale.”I can’t believe it,” Custer said. “I did all I could and drove in deeper than I had all weekend into Turn 1 (on the final lap) trying to get on (Reddick’s) bumper, and it worked out.”We’re going to Homestead, and I think we have a great chance to win it. It’s just awesome. We haven’t won this year, but we’ve been so close. It’s been frustrating, but we’ve kept going. There’s no better time to do it.”Bell’s stunning run of ill fortune continued at Texas. Two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway, in the first race in the Round of 8, Justin Allgaier wiped him out in Turn 2 of the first lap. On Saturday, after winning the pole, Bell spun out of control — again in Turn 2 of the first lap.Though Bell recovered to finish fourth in Stage 1 and fifth in Stage 2, his recovery was short-lived. The capper came on Lap 133, when eventual third-place finisher Austin Cindric pushed up the track slightly, clipped the back-left quarter of Bell’s No. 20 Toyota and sent it sliding into the outside wall.Resulting suspension damage knocked Bell out of the race in 32nd place at the speedway closest to his Norman, Okla., home.”It caught me off guard,” Bell said of the Lap 1 spin. “You saw the same thing from the No. 7 (Allgaier) at Kansas. I didn’t feel like I was up to speed at all. The next thing I knew, I spun out.”With the playoff field to be cut from eight drivers to four next Saturday at Phoenix, Bell faces a 34-point deficit to Daniel Hemric (10th Saturday), who holds fourth place in the standings. A six-time winner as a Sunoco rookie this season, Bell, for practical purposes, must win again.”This format, it’s very tough and it creates a lot of drama,” Bell said. “I’ve always been proud of myself for winning races, and I’ve won six races this year, and I’ve got a chance to win two more.”I’m going to go out there and try to win races. I’ve never been a points racer, and my results show for that. I’m either up front or crashing. I’m going to go out and try to win two more races.”Aside from Custer, no one in the top eight has much breathing room heading to Phoenix. Reddick has a 20-point edge over fifth-place Allgaier, who came home fifth on Saturday. Veteran Elliott Sadler, who ran eighth, is 13 points ahead of Allgaier, his JR Motorsports teammate. Hemric has a 12-point cushion.Last in the playoff standings and 61 points out of fourth, Cindric must win at ISM Raceway at Phoenix to advance. That’s nothing new for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, who finished .316 seconds behind Custer.”I’ve been in a must-win position since Kansas,” Cindric said. “For me, that hasn’t changed.”NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – 14th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts ChallengeTexas Motor SpeedwayFort Worth, TexasSaturday, November 3, 20181. (3) Cole Custer (P), Ford, 200.2. (4) Tyler Reddick # (P), Chevrolet, 200.3. (8) Austin Cindric # (P), Ford, 200.4. (10) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 200.5. (5) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 200.6. (14) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 200.7. (7) Matt Tifft (P), Chevrolet, 200.8. (13) Elliott Sadler (P), Chevrolet, 200.9. (12) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 200.10. (9) Daniel Hemric (P), Chevrolet, 200.11. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 200.12. (17) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200.13. (38) Ty Majeski, Ford, 200.14. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200.15. (22) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 200.16. (16) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 200.17. (19) Chad Finchum #, Toyota, 199.18. (21) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 199.19. (29) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 199.20. (24) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 198.21. (34) Bayley Currey(i), Toyota, 197.22. (30) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 197.23. (2) Shane Lee, Chevrolet, 197.24. (32) David Starr, Chevrolet, 196.25. (33) Spencer Boyd #, Chevrolet, 195.26. (26) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 193.27. (36) Vinnie Miller #, Chevrolet, 193.28. (37) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 192.29. (15) Ryan Reed, Ford, Accident, 186.30. (20) Alex Labbe #, Chevrolet, 176.31. (6) Ryan Preece, Toyota, Accident, 139.32. (1) Christopher Bell # (P), Toyota, Accident, 133.33. (11) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, Accident, 120.34. (35) Bobby Earnhardt, Toyota, Accident, 104.35. (27) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Vibration, 56.36. (25) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Electrical, 44.37. (28) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 32.38. (31) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Brakes, 10.39. (39) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Electrical, 4.Average Speed of Race Winner: 116.82 mph.Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 34 Mins, 5 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.162 Seconds.Caution Flags: 13 for 54 laps.Lead Changes: 17 among 9 drivers.Lap Leaders: C. Bell # (P) 0;S. Lee 1-6;T. Reddick # (P) 7-24;D. Hemric (P) 25-51;T. Reddick # (P) 52-80;C. Custer (P) 81-85;T. Reddick # (P) 86;C. Custer (P) 87-92;C. Bell # (P) 93-127;B. Jones 128-131;D. Hemric (P) 132-138;J. Allgaier (P) 139-144;D. Hemric (P) 145-152;J. Allgaier (P) 153-183;J. Nemechek 184-189;C. Custer (P) 190-193;T. Reddick # (P) 194-199;C. Custer (P) 200.Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Tyler Reddick # (P) 4 times for 54 laps; Daniel Hemric (P) 3 times for 42 laps; Justin Allgaier (P) 2 times for 37 laps; Christopher Bell # (P) 1 time for 35 laps; Cole Custer (P) 4 times for 16 laps; Shane Lee 1 time for 6 laps; John Hunter Nemechek 1 time for 6 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 4 laps.Stage #1 Top Ten: 21,00,9,20,1,2,7,18,42,19Stage #2 Top Ten: 00,7,18,9,20,1,2,21,51,19

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