DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By John Tejada, NASCAR — Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR photo — Cole Custer is on cloud nine following his first win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the UNOH 175 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and the 16-year-old NASCAR Next driver will be focused on a strong showing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Drive Sober 150 event at Dover International Speedway on Friday, Sept. 26.
Custer, from Ladera Ranch, California, has four NASCAR K&N Pro Series wins, four poles, eight top fives and 10 top 10s through his first 22 career starts, including a K&N Pro West win in the Talking Sticks Resort 75 at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 27, and a K&N Pro East victory in the Blue Ox 150 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26.
He’ll also be looking for a little vindication at Dover.
The “Monster Mile” has not been kind to Custer in the past. He finished 14th in this event last season and was 14th in a Camping World Truck Series start at the track earlier this year. Still, the young driver hopes his win at New Hampshire in the Truck Series will help give him momentum heading into Friday night’s event. Prior to his last two K&N Pro Series East starts, Custer had two top fives in three starts, including the win at Richmond.
Custer will be looking to bounce back from two rough outings in his recent appearances in the K&N Pro Series East. In the Bully Hill Vineyards 125 at Watkins Glen International, Custer was involved in an accident on the white-flag lap while challenging for the lead. He finished the event in 16th. The next week at Virginia International Raceway, Custer was once again involved in an accident, finishing 18th.
Custer has only finished outside the top 15 in three consecutive series starts once in his career, his first three races at Bristol Motor Speedway (24th), Greenville Pickens in South Carolina (19th) and Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, (22nd). Perhaps his third race at the one-mile oval will be the one that puts him back on the right track in the K&N Pro Series East.
The Race: The Drive Sober 150 at Dover International Speedway will be the 16th and final event of the 2014 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. This will be the 14th all-time stand-alone race for the series at Dover.
The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (150 miles) and will have a five-minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75.
The Track: Known as the “Monster Mile,” Dover is an even one-mile concrete oval with banking of nine degrees on the straightaways and 24 degrees in the turns.
Race Winners: There have been 12 winners in the previous 13 K&N Pro Series East races at Dover. Austin Hill was last year’s winner, while Brett Moffitt is the only driver in series history with multiple victories at the track.
Pole Winners: In the 13 previous events there have been 11 different pole winners. Darrell Wallace Jr. is the only multi-time polesitter at Dover, while Matt DiBenedetto has the qualifying record at 23.201 seconds (155.166 mph), established in 2009.
DOVER RACE NOTES
One More Trophy To Claim: Ben Rhodes only has one piece of unfinished business: The Monster trophy at Dover. The Louisville, Kentucky, driver has already wrapped up the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship as well as Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors prior to Friday’s season finale at the high-banked concrete mile. But Rhodes will look to become just the second driver in series history to win the championship and take home the checkered flag at “The Monster Mile” in the same season. Dover has served as the last race of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season six times since 2002 and the eventual champion has not won any of those events; last year, Dylan Kwasniewski became the first champion to win the season finale since 1998 with his win at Road Atlanta.
Racing With A Purpose: The 2014 series championship may be out of reach for Cameron Hayley, but the Calgary, Alberta, Canada, native still has plenty to race for heading into the final event of the season. Hayley has a 19-point cushion in the battle for the runner-up position in the series but will also be looking for his first win the in the Pro Series East. He currently leads all drivers with five second-place finishes this season.
Battle For The Podium: Just 27 points separate third from ninth in the championship standings. Brandon Jones, Jesse Little, Kaz Grala, defending race winner Austin Hill, Kenzie Ruston and Nick Drake will all be battling to end the season inside the top spots in the overall rankings. The list includes four NASCAR Next drivers, Gaulding, Little, Hill and Ruston.
Suárez Returns to Action: Daniel Suárez has missed the last two K&N Pro Series East events in order to focus on the championship battle for the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series title. With an off-weekend for the Toyota Series, the 22-year-old Monterrey, Mexico, native will return to Rev Racing for the Drive Sober 150. Suárez finished sixth in last year’s event. Friday’s race is likely to be the last series start for Suárez for the foreseeable future as the driver will compete full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2015 for Joe Gibbs Racing.
LAST TIME OUT: Greenville Pickens
The most recent NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race was held on Sept. 6 at Greenville Pickens Speedway. Here are some highlights from the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140:
- Rhodes earned his 11th top-five finish of the season with a fourth-place effort and clinched his first series title in the process.
- Hill won the event, his first victory of 2014 and second of his career.
- Hayley crossed the line second, his series-leading fifth runner-up finish of the season.
- Bryan Ortiz ran in the No. 6 Rev Racing Toyota in place of Suárez who was competing in a NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series event in Chihuahua, Mexico.
NEXT TIME OUT: NASCAR Night of Champions
Before the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to action next spring, there is one major event on the offseason schedule. The K&N Pro Series East champion will be crowned as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions, which will include ceremonies for the seven NASCAR touring series on Saturday, Dec. 13 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.