A California kid raced to one of the biggest wins of his career, winning Saturday’s 21st annual Xfinity Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Cole Custer, 21, scored his third career Xfinity victory, spoiling Kyle Busch’s first chance at winning his 200th NASCAR race.
Custer grew up about 60 miles south of Fontana, in Ladera Ranch, and had a large contingent of family and friends on hand for his big day on his home track.
“It means a lot to win here. I grew up racing about 20 minutes from here,” said Custer. “Every driver wants to win here because this is such a good track but to win in front of my family and friends is awesome.”
Ladera Ranch's Cole Custer crosses the finish line to win Saturday's 21st annual Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity race at Auto Club Speed…
Busch dominated most of the race but an uncontrolled tire cost him a shot a victory.
Starting in the front row, in the No. 2 position, Busch quickly passed pole sitter Tyler Reddick for the lead and, with no cautions, cruised to a win in the 35-lap Stage 1, followed by Reddick and Custer.
“Once I got up there, I thought we could run with him (Busch),” said Custer. “Running behind Kyle, I learned a lot watching how he approached turns 3 and 4.”
Busch kept right on cruising through a caution-free Stage 2, winning that stage ahead of Reddick, Justin Allgaier and Custer.
Busch’s day began to unravel after Austin Cindric, who was running fourth at the time, spun out coming through turn four on lap 112 of the 150 lap race, ending up in the infield.
Kyle Busch led most of the way before finishing in second place at Saturday's 21st annual Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity race at Auto C…
Most of the field headed to the pits during the ensuing caution.
Busch’s team let one tire roll free, out of the pit box, causing a penalty that sent Busch back to 13th place for the re-start.
Custer took advantage of the Busch team’s mistake, passing Christopher Bell and then Allgaier to take the lead on lap 119 of the 150 lap race.
Busch steadily worked his way through the field, taking over second place with 15 laps to go but Custer was able to hold off Busch to the checkered flag.
“Even when he was in front of us, I thought we could catch him,” said Custer. “Then, when his team made that mistake in the pit, I thought we had a good chance at winning.”
Ladera Ranches' Cole Custer speaks with reporters after winning Saturday's 21st annual Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity race at Auto Club…
“I had a lack of grip of my tires there at the end. I just couldn’t match his speed in the 00 (Custer’s car),” said Busch. “Our (Toyota) Supra was fast, just not fast enough at the end.”
“You look in your rear view mirror and see that black (Busch) car and you hope it doesn’t get any bigger. But I hit my marks down the stretch and it worked out that we were able to pull away. This wins means a lot to me. Kyle Busch is a legend. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer. It means a lot to keep him at 299,” said Custer. “I’m pumped. I never won one of these this early in the year. Now I can relax a little bit and focus on winning for the rest of the year.”
Busch will have his second chance for career win No. 200 Sunday in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Auto Club 400.