Cole Custer Overcomes Pit Woes to Win Contentious XFinity Race At Auto Club

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Cole Custer, driver of the #07 Production Alliance Group Ford, drives during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance 300 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

California kid Cole Custer ended up victorious in triple-overtime in NASCAR’s Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway Saturday.

Custer overcame pit stop troubles all day, losing 17 spots in total on pit road throughout the race, but rallied back to dominate and lead over half the race.

“It was just an awesome car,” Custer said. “That thing was just a rocket ship all day. I can’t thank Bobby Dotter enough and everybody who was involved on this car. It was unreal how fast we were. Production Alliance Group, this is awesome. It is his race, the Production Alliance Group 300 and we got him in victory lane. I can’t thank Dale Sahlin enough.”

The record breaking 12th and final caution came out with six laps to go and set up the first overtime with Brandon Jones’ spin on the restart racked the field right back up. The field almost took the white flag before Jones spun again avoiding other contact but slamming into the sand filled barrels at the end of pit road to bring out a 23-minute red flag while crews repaired the damage. Jones was later cleared at the infield medical center. 

On the restart, Custer was able to again grab the lead and hold on for the win.

“I just knew we needed a good push and we were starting to get the timing of it,” Custer said. “But the last one we kind of got separated a little bit and I was a little nervous because the 23 had new tires. “

Noah Gragson, Trevor Bayne, Josh Berry, and Anthony Alfredo rounded out the top five. Alfredo was the only driver able to take tires towards the end, and climbed from outside the top twenty to lining up second on the final restart.

“If you’re not going to win the thing, don’t try the same thing everyone else does,” said Pat Tryson, his crew chief. The call gained Alfredo plenty of positions and put him in contention for the win.

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 26: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet, exits pit road during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance 300 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

AJ Allmendinger led the field to green, but it was not to be for the driver of the No. 16 Chevrolet. A loose wheel forced him to pit again on lap 81, and he kept just-missing the lucky dog position as cautions came out. An attempt to take the wave-around also didn’t work out when a caution failed to materialize and he once again had to take tires under green. He did end the race on the lead lap after the series of cautions, finishing seventh.

Custer, a California native, whose hometown is about an hour south of the track, hopes to be taking Saturday’s momentum into Sunday’s Cup race where he will start 21st. 

“I came to this track when I was five years old,” he said. “It is pretty amazing to come here and win at your home track.”

Sam Mayer, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Riley Herbst, and Ryan Seig rounded out the top ten. Allmendinger will be hoping for more luck when the Xfinity Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend.

Photos: NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway Saturday Feb. 26, 2022

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results Production Alliance Group 300

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, California

Saturday, February 26, 2022

  1. (2)  Cole Custer(i), Ford, 165.
  2. (6)  Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 165.
  3. (4)  Trevor Bayne, Toyota, 165.
  4. (11)  Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 165.
  5. (28)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 165.
  6. (13)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 165.
  7. (1)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 165.
  8. (20)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 165.
  9. (16)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 165.
  10. (14)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 165.
  11. (30)  Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 165.
  12. (5)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 165.
  13. (12)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 165.
  14. (21)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 165.
  15. (18)  Joe Graf Jr., Ford, 165.
  16. (22)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 165.
  17. (10)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 165.
  18. (38)  Kyle Sieg, Ford, 165.
  19. (17)  Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 165.
  20. (36)  Joey Gase, Toyota, 165.
  21. (34)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 165.
  22. (24)  JJ Yeley, Toyota, 165.
  23. (25)  Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 165.
  24. (19)  Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 165.
  25. (29)  Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 163.
  26. (31)  Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 163.
  27. (8)  Austin Hill #, Chevrolet, 162.
  28. (33)  Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 162.
  29. (37)  Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 161.
  30. (23)  Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, Accident, 159.
  31. (27)  Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 158.
  32. (9)  Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, Accident, 156.
  33. (3)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, Accident, 155.
  34. (26)  Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 154.
  35. (32)  Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, Accident, 150.
  36. (35)  Jesse Iwuji #, Chevrolet, 131.
  37. (15)  Jade Buford, Chevrolet, Accident, 123.
  38. (7)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Engine, 6.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  105.682 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 5 Mins, 5 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .565 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  12 for 58 laps.

Lead Changes:  19 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Allmendinger 1-13;T. Bayne 14-23;N. Gragson 24;T. Bayne 25-38;D. Hemric 39-48;C. Custer(i) 49-59;N. Gragson 60;C. Custer(i) 61-72;J. Allgaier 73;B. Jones 74-76;C. Custer(i) 77-103;N. Gragson 104;J. Allgaier 105-108;N. Gragson 109-124;T. Gibbs 125-127;J. Allgaier 128-129;N. Gragson 130-134;C. Custer(i) 135-143;N. Gragson 144;C. Custer(i) 145-165.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Cole Custer(i) 5 times for 80 laps; Noah Gragson 6 times for 25 laps; Trevor Bayne 2 times for 24 laps; AJ Allmendinger 1 time for 13 laps; Daniel Hemric 1 time for 10 laps; Justin Allgaier 3 times for 7 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 3 laps; Ty Gibbs 1 time for 3 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,07,7,9,54,16,8,39,11,1

Stage #2 Top Ten: 07,19,7,9,54,11,16,1,8,98

Owen Johnson