No other Xfinity Series driver has ever led a race lap at the Chicago Street Course. Instead, Cole Custer enjoyed a perfect race, at lead on Saturday.
Granted, he didn’t have to lead as many laps as advertised: not even half as many. NASCAR officially decided to cancel The Loop 121 Xfinity Series race at the Chicago Street course with just 25 of the scheduled 55 laps completed.
Those laps were run Saturday evening before a lightning strike brought out the red flag. Chicago parks policy, which requires a total evacuation when lightning is in the area, forced NASCAR to clear the stands and delay the race. Further lightning holds and heavy rain Sunday morning meant it never did get back underway.
“With standing water and flooding a significant issue at the racetrack and throughout the city, there was no option to return to racing prior to shifting to NASCAR Cup Series race operations,” a statement released by the sport read.
“Throughout the entire planning process for the Chicago Street Race, our relationship with the City of Chicago has been strong and among the most valuable assets in reaching this historic weekend. In the spirit of that partnership, returning on Monday for the completion of a NASCAR Xfinity Series event two laps short of halfway was an option we chose not to employ.”
“Based on several unprecedented circumstances, NASCAR has made the decision to declare Cole Custer the winner of the race.”
It’s a decision so unprecedented that the rulebook doesn’t even specifically cover it. The official rule provides stipulations for canceling the race after either running half distance or reaching the end of Stage 2, neither of which happened at Chicago. But, because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the street course, officials chose to instead rule the Xfinity Series race complete per Section 1.6.B of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rule Book, which states that in “circumstances … that are either unforeseen or are otherwise extraordinary,” the sanctioning body, “as a practical matter, may make a determination regarding the conduct of an event.”
Regardless, NASCAR did award points for Stage 2 as well based on the ultimate finishing order.
However, the rulebook does give NASCAR leeway to “take such other action as they determine to be necessary to promote the best interests of NASCAR racing, including but not limited to fairness and prompt finality of competition results.” The Official Entry Blanks use the term “EIRI” meaning “Except In Rare Instances.” That EIRI term was certainly in effect on Sunday.
“It’s been an awesome weekend overall,” said Custer. “The whole event, the whole thing that NASCAR’s put on here—the whole city—it’s been pretty unreal… The course is such a blast to drive.
“Today, we definitely wish we could have run all the laps. We don’t want to win it this way, but at the end of the day, we had a really fast car. I think everybody knew that.”
The final result gives John Hunter Nemechek the runner up spot.
“The race went OK for us. I ran P2 from the drop of the green flag until lap 25 when they called it (Saturday),” Nemechek said. We needed a good stop to be able to make an adjustment and have a shot to contend with Cole for the win and just never had that opportunity. We’ll take that second place, and we’ll move on from it.”
Justin Hill, Brett Moffitt, and Austin Hill rounded out the top five.
Sammy Smith, Daniel Hemric, Chandler Smith, Parker Kligerman, and Kaz Grala finished the top ten.
Though only a few laps were completed, Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks, driving the No. 10 for Kaulig Racing, still found time for bad luck, suffering a motor issue and spinning on the way back to pit road. Marks was fastest in practice, and the Xfinity Series race winner showed promise battling up front early.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – The Loop 121
Chicago Street Race
Saturday, July 1, 2023
1. (1) Cole Custer, Ford, 25.
2. (3) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 25.
3. (6) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 25.
4. (7) Brett Moffitt, Ford, 25.
5. (5) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 25.
6. (8) Sammy Smith #, Toyota, 25.
7. (9) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 25.
8. (16) Chandler Smith #, Chevrolet, 25.
9. (10) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 25.
10. (25) Kaz Grala, Toyota, 25.
11. (2) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 25.
12. (13) Preston Pardus, Chevrolet, 25.
13. (17) Miguel Paludo, Chevrolet, 25.
14. (32) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 25.
15. (18) Alex Guenette, Chevrolet, 25.
16. (26) Parker Chase, Toyota, 25.
17. (29) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, 25.
18. (14) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 25.
19. (31) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 25.
20. (37) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 25.
21. (19) Alex Labbe, Toyota, 25.
22. (11) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 25.
23. (23) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 25.
24. (15) Riley Herbst, Ford, 25.
25. (24) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 25.
26. (33) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 25.
27. (34) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 25.
28. (22) Spencer Pumpelly, Chevrolet, 25.
29. (21) Parker Retzlaff #, Chevrolet, 25.
30. (30) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 25.
31. (20) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 25.
32. (27) Brad Perez, Chevrolet, 25.
33. (35) Joe Graf Jr., Ford, 25.
34. (38) Brent Sherman, Ford, 25.
35. (4) Connor Mosack, Toyota, 25.
36. (36) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 22.
37. (28) Andre Castro, Chevrolet, Accident, 16.
38. (12) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, Engine, 3.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 52.66 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 2 Mins, 40 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 9 laps.
Lead Changes: 0 among 1 driver.
Lap Leaders: C. Custer 1-25.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Cole Custer 1 time for 25 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 00,20,21,7,19,25,18,11,48,16
Stage #2 Top Ten: 00,20,7,25,21,18,11,16,48,26
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