It took a little bit longer than expected, but Cole Custer and SS Green Light Racing have captured the victory in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Auto Club Speedway, marking the 10th win for the NASCAR Cup Series driver, and the first for the two-car organization.
Custer, who drove the organization’s primary entry with backing from race title sponsor Production Alliance Group, started from the second position, after AJ Allmendinger narrowly took the pole position.
Initially taking the lead at the one-third mark of the race, Custer led a race-high 80 laps en-route to the victory, including 30 of the final 31 circuits. Of course, that didn’t come without its challenges…
The 24-year-old repeatedly lost massive amounts of track position on pit road throughout the race, with the team’s pit crew performing multiple below-par stops, shuffling the No. 07 into the back-half of the top-10.
However, a fast car – prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing — allowed Custer to slice his way through traffic, even picking off a total of eight cars in one lap, one a restart in the second-half of the event.
After things had been settled on pit road, the NASCAR Cup Series winner had to fight off a pack of hungry drivers on multiple restarts, with the race finishing under the third attempt at NASCAR Overtime.
Noah Gragson and Trevor Bayne – making his return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing — were the two biggest challenges for Custer in the late stages of the event, and recorded finishes inside the top-three.
Taking advantage of the expected chaos on the final restarts, Josh Berry placed his PUBG MOBILE Chevrolet Camaro in fourth-place, with Anthony Alfredo finishing inside the top-five for Our Motorsports.
The No. 23 seemed to struggle throughout the day, reaching its ceiling of about 13th-place just moments before a caution came out on lap 142. Pat Tryson, had made a call for Alfredo to stay out on old tires just a couple of laps prior, giving the DUDE Wipes entry an extra set of sticker tires.
Through a massive tire advantage, multiple cautions and subsequent restarts, as well as the choose rule, Alfredo was able to find himself restarting on the front row for the race’s final NASCAR Overtime restart. However, the 2021 NCS ROTY runner-up wasn’t able to seal the deal for the victory, fading back to fifth-place.
Sam Mayer finished in sixth, with AJ Allmendinger rebounding from an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel to finish in seventh. Justin Allgaier, Riley Herbst, and Ryan Sieg rounded out the top-10.
The race featured a total of 12 caution flags, for a total of 58 laps, meaning 35-percent of the event was run under caution. The final caution, however, was the longest, as Brandon Jones slammed into the tire barriers at the pit entrance, causing a 23-minute red flag.
Attrition being high in Saturday’s event marks trouble for some NASCAR Xfinity Series teams, as NASCAR issued a rules bulletin prior to the start of the year, stating teams must utilize the same vehicle for the series’ events at Auto Club and Las Vegas, barring NASCAR approving the use of a backup.