HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Cole Custer put on a driving clinic in South Florida on Saturday evening, scoring his first-career NASCAR XFINITY Series win in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 300 and setting a record in the process.
Custer led 182 of 200 laps around the 1.5-mile Miami oval, winning both stages and then pulling out to an incredible 15.405 second margin of victory over the second half of the race, cruising to the breakthrough win after six prior top-five finishes during the season.
The final 104 laps of Saturday’s race ran uninterrupted, and aside from the stage breaks at laps 45 and 90, the only other caution during the entire night flew for a spin by David Starr on lap 19.
For Custer, the taste of victory was one he had longed for the entire year, and he was finally able to savor it Saturday night.
“I haven’t done that in a while,” Custer said. “We definitely had something to prove this weekend; we were so close on making it happen last weekend and I really wanted to end strong. I knew we were really going to be good this weekend. Our Haas Automation Mustang was unreal tonight.”
“We wanted to really have a good showing on Ford Championship Weekend. Even though we weren’t in it, we still wanted to win. … It’s been unbelievable, after going into this year with so many question marks and with how my year went last year … to see how far this program has come is unbelievable.”
Custer was able to secure fifth in points with his win in the season finale, highest among the drivers who were eliminated during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
In addition, Custer ends his season with an average finish of 7.9 across the 11 races on mile-and-a-half race tracks, best among all full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished a distant second in the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, securing Roger Penske’s fourth owner’s championship in the last five years (2013-15, ’17) and notching back-to-back runner-up finishes to close the season.
Meanwhile, a torrid battle between JR Motorsports teammates William Byron and Elliott Sadler saw the duo exchange the points lead twice in the final 40 laps, with Byron ultimately moving ahead of Sadler for good by way of a huge slide job with nine to go.
Though Sadler tried to get back to Byron in the closing moments, the veteran ultimately made contact with Ryan Preece with five to go while trying to make the pass for fourth on-track, sending both cars into the outside wall in turn three as Byron scooted away.
The 19-year-old from Charlotte, N.C. crossed the line in third behind Custer and Hornish to score his first XFINITY title in his one and only full-time season in the series.
Byron follows in the footsteps of soon-to-be Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott as the second rookie champion in series history.
Tyler Reddick and Preece completed the top five finishers in the race, while Sadler faded to eighth after his brush with the wall and finished second in points.
Custer’s domination of the race was so thorough that Sadler was the final car on the lead lap at the checkered flag.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…