Cole Custer started from the pole and led 32 laps in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway on the path to a ninth-place finish.
While it seems like an alright day on the box score, Custer was seething inside his car in the closing portions of the race, where he saw a possible win, turn to what looked to be a second-to-third-place finish after AJ Allmendinger — who had a potential advantage due to damage — got around him.
As soon as Allmendinger ran him and Chandler Smith down for the lead, Custer took to the team radio and just started letting his thoughts rip.
“I’m going to rip Wayne [Auton]’s ass if that thing is still cheated up back there,” Custer told his team on the radio as Allmendinger was closing in on him for position.
The thoughts continued to progress after Allmendinger took the lead.
“Like what in the fuck,” Custer questioned. “Why haven’t they made them fix it?”
A few laps later, Custer voiced his displeasure over the loss of Playoff Points as he blurted on the radio, “Playoff Points out the fucking window because two Cup regulars have their shit cheated up.”
The angry thoughts didn’t stop once Custer took the checkered flag.
A potential win, which turned into a sure-fire top-three finish, ended up being a finish on the edge of the top 10 after a late-race pit stop call. Custer climbed out of his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang extremely miffed on Saturday afternoon.
While he was mad with the end result, Custer wanted to be crystal clear that his frustration didn’t lie with his crew chief Jonathan Toney’s call to pit prior to an overtime finish.
“Yeah, no, I feel like we were just talking about it. I wouldn’t have done anything different[ly]. It’s just luck of the draw there on green-white checkers on which lane moves and which doesn’t,” Custer explained.
Instead, Custer’s anger on the team’s radio, and in the wake of the race, stemmed from damage on AJ Allmendinger’s No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro, which Custer felt created a distinct aerodynamic advantage on the race track.
“Just pretty livid to finish ninth with a race car that I think should have won,” Custer pointed sharply. “Pretty frustrated with that, you know, losing Playoff Points, and everything just — I don’t think it was a very fair race there at the end.
“I love [NASCAR Xfinity Series Director] Wayne [Auton], I love everybody at NASCAR. I’m just frustrated, it’s just frustrating. We have really fast cars. JT and the guys and everybody at SHR are doing a great job, we just have to keep digging. But this one just stings because it takes Playoff Points away.”
While you may question how Custer could be so upset about Allmendinger sustaining damage, which he couldn’t control, that actually improved the performance of his race car, the reason for Custer’s elevated anger is the result of a penalty that he sustained earlier in the season in a similar situation.
In the second race of the year, at Auto Club Speedway, Custer had a realistic shot at the race win. After winning Stages 1 and 2 in that race, Custer was involved in an accident, and his No. 00 car was at least as fast as it was prior to the accident, or perhaps even a little better.
NASCAR called Custer back to pit road to remove the perceived advantages that the damage had given him. Custer simply wishes there would have been a little consistency in the way the race was called from the tower on Saturday afternoon in Nashville.
“Yes, yeah pretty frustrating,” Custer stated. “I felt like we had a pretty fast car there, and we worked our guts out to pass [Chandler Smith] and [Allmendinger] just flew by both of us and can drive two car lengths deeper into the corner. Not even close. And it’s just frustrating.”
“They’ve made us fix damage in the past. I know it’s not an easy call, but it just sucks.”
— Stephen Stumpf (@stephen_stumpf) June 24, 2023
While he won’t get the five Playoff Points back for what he felt was a sure-fire win, Custer is enjoying a great season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. After Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250, the 15th race of the year, Custer sits fourth in the Championship standings and is 51 points behind John Hunter Nemechek, the regular season point leader.
Following the race, NASCAR took Custer’s No. 00 Ford Mustang back to the NASCAR R&D Center for further evaluation.