By Eric Young
SPARTA, Ky. — Friday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway was mostly a three-car race, with Cole Custer earning his fifth win of the 2019 season, leading 88 of the 200 laps and holding off Christopher Bell after green flag pit stops in the final stage.
“This one just goes out to my team,” Custer said in victory lane. “The car was unbelievable at the end. They knew exactly what to do with it when the track changed, and I was just lucky to drive it there at the end.”
Custer said with the application of the traction compound this year, it presented a new challenge and made it almost like a new track.
“I think the track was a lot different this year, so I kind of almost had to relearn it a bit,” Custer said. “So I think I got better and better as the race went on, got more comfortable with it, and I think the track changed a lot also, and I think Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) did a good job just keeping up with that, knowing what was going to happen.”
Custer said he is becoming more comfortable as one of the top contenders.
“I think so for sure,” he said. “It just comes with experience, doing it more and more. You build that experience obviously and that confidence. It’s just something that comes with time, I guess. Obviously you have to have the car to do it, and we had a great car tonight. I just can’t thank all my guys enough.
Bell dominated the early part of the race, leading 72 laps and winning the first two stages of the race. But despite closing the gap during green flag pit stops, Bell was unable to catch Custer to race him for the win during the final stage.
“We were really good early and my car felt really good late, we just got beat,” Bell said. “Probably just got a little bit too comfortable there, a little bit too tight. We just have to work on a couple things and we’ll come back and get this Ruud Supra in victory lane.”
Bell told his crew before the pit stop at the stage break that his car was tight, but he didn’t want to adjust it and go too far. In the end, that might have been what cost him the race.
“I’m not going to say we got worse,” he said. “My car was really good. Probably just got a little too comfortable there, a little bit too tight. We just have to work on a coupel things and we’ll come back and get this Ruud Supra in victory lane.”
The two also contended with challenges from Brandon Jones, fresh off a strong performance the night before in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race before being involved in an accident. Jones likely would have been part of the battle at the end, but engine trouble forced him out of the race.
“A lot of smoke in the cab,” Jones said. “I couldn’t really get the motor over 7,000 RPMs, so kind of a telltale sign for me that the motor was letting go there at the end. That’s twice this weekend that we’ve been leading the race and something has taken us out — whether it’s been mechanical or an incident on the track. What are you going to do? We’ve been running first both races this week and that’s what we’ve got to do, at least on my behalf.”
“I hate it,” Jones said. “We had Menards and we had Swiffer on the car this weekend. It was going great for us. I think we had the car to win the race tonight. But all in all, these guys worked really hard and I think they’re all behind me and we’re going to get this thing figured out.”
The entire final stage ran caution free, and with the fast pace set by Custer, only five cars remained on the lead lap at the conclusion. Tyler Reddick came home third, Michael Annett had another strong performance finishing fourth, and Chase Briscoe finished fifth after leading 14 laps.
There were 13 lead changes among eight drivers and five cautions for 24 laps. The Xfinity Series next heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 20 for the Roxor 200.