Disappointing 23rd for Custer at Homestead

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Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

●  Cole Custer started 10th and finished 17th.

●  The HaasTooling.com Ford held position in the top-10 during the opening laps but began losing ground on lap five. Custer said two simple words on the radio – “Really loose” – as he drifted back to 16th place by lap 10.

●  By lap 20, Custer was in 23rd and said his HaasTooling.com Ford was still free on corner entry. He picked up a position to 22nd by the time the competition caution flag waved on lap 25 and said his racecar was just starting to come to him. Custer pitted for four tires, fuel, a right-rear track-bar adjustment and packer removed from the left front, and he restarted 20th when the race went back to green on lap 30.

●  Custer dropped a pair of positions by lap 37 and said his racecar was “a little too tight.”

●  The caution flag flew for fluid on the backstretch on lap 64 with Custer running 25th. He said the previous changes fixed “about 75% of my problem on exit,” but that he was still too tight on corner entry. He pitted for four tires, fuel and a right-rear track-bar adjustment, and restarted 26th on lap 72.

●  The short run to the end of Stage 1 was Custer’s best of the stage, as he picked up nine positions. He said his HaasTooling.com Ford was good on entry and exit, but was just too tight through the center of the corner. He pitted during the break for four tires and fuel and adjustments focused on the front end.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

●  Custer started 15th and finished 14th.

●  The HaasTooling.com Ford made a forward surge in the opening laps of the stage, jumping into the top-10 before settling in 12th place for eight laps.

●  Custer was up to eighth on lap 120 as the field began its round of scheduled green-flag pit stops. He came down pit road on lap 121 for four tires and fuel. He asked the crew for help remedying a tight condition and a lack of rear grip, and was in 20th when the round of green-flag stops was complete.

●  The caution flag flew on lap 153 for fluid on the backstretch with Custer running 19th. He said this latest run started out tight but then the handling became decent. He still asked for help turning through the center of the corner. He pitted for four tires, fuel and a left-rear track-bar adjustment. He restarted 17th on lap 159, picked up three positions during that lap of the stage and then stayed on track during the break.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-267):

●  Custer started ninth and finished 23rd.

●  The No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang had a strong restart, flirting with the top-five during the opening lap before settling in seventh. Custer said he was still dealing with a tight condition.

●  Custer said the tight condition got markedly better but wasn’t completely resolved by the time the caution flag flew on lap 199 for a two-car incident in turn three while he was still running in seventh place. He pitted for four tires, fuel and another left-rear track-bar adjustment and restarted fifth on lap 207.

●  The HaasTooling.com driver held onto fourth place for almost the entire run to the finish before he lost the position to Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick with 30 laps go, then fell to sixth when Tyler Reddick got by him with 18 to go.

●  Custer radioed that he had a tire going down while running eighth with two laps to go. He carefully made his way around the track for those final two laps and took the checkered flag in 23rd.

Notes:

●  William Byron won the Dixie Vodka 400 to score his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory and his first at Homestead. His margin over second-place Tyler Reddick was 2.777 seconds.

●  There were six caution periods for a total of 36 laps.

●  Twenty-five of the 40 drivers in the race finished on the lead lap.

●  Denny Hamlin remains the championship leader after Homestead with a 20-point advantage over second-place Harvick.

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“Well, that really stings. Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) and the guys did everything they could to help fix our ability to turn through the center of the corner, and we knew that when the sun went down we would have the rear grip we were struggling with early in the race. It was looking like it might be a top-five day, but then we needed to make sure we had fuel enough to get to the end. At worst we had our first top-10 of the season, and then the tire started coming apart with three to go. It’s a shame for the HaasTooling.com team, but we are looking forward to heading out West to Vegas and Phoenix.”

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Las Vegas 400 on Sunday, March 7, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race begins at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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