First rookie victory since 2016: This is Kentucky winner Cole Custer

First rookie victory since 2016: This is Kentucky winner Cole Custer
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For the first time since the 2016 season, a rookie has won a race of the NASCAR Cup Series – At the Kentucky Speedway Cole Custer grabbed his first victory – But who is the Stewart-Haas talent exactly?

In 2016 Chris Buescher last won a NASCAR Cup Series race as a rookie in Pocono – at that time the race was stopped early due to rain. Since the Kentucky race in 2020, there is another rookie who has put his name on the list of winners: Cole Custer. The Stewart-Haas talent led four laps – these were his first lead laps in the NASCAR upper house – and secured the premiere victory.

Custer prevailed against greats as Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney, who were fighting “four-wide” for victory on the final lap. The Stewart-Haas driver finally got the upper hand and crossed the finish line in first place for the first time in his career in the NASCAR Cup Series. A dream came true for the 22-year-old Californian.

The career of the new Cup winner

Custer was born on 23rd of January 1998 in Radera Ranch. At the tender age of four years, the Californian climbed into a quarter midget for the first time to make his first racing meters. Custer was immediately infected by the motorsport virus, which is why he gained important experience in various racing series in his childhood.

In 2013 Custer made his debut in the then called NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA Series West) at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Only a few weeks later, the then 15-year-old crowned himself the youngest winner of the series with his triumph at the Iowa Speedway. In New Hampshire his second Pro Series victory for Ken Schrader Racing followed.

Credits: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Just one year later, Stewart-Haas Racing had already secured the services of Custer. The young talent was accepted into the junior programme and received important support from the experienced NASCAR team. Custer made his debut in the NASCAR Gander & RV Outdoors Truck Series in Martinsville in 2014. His first truck victory followed at Loudon in the same season.

The records tumble

During his first years in professional NASCAR racing, Custer set more records. At Gateway Motorsports Park, the youngster completed the fastest qualifying lap to date, only to be celebrated as the youngest pole sitter in NASCAR history. At 16 years, seven months and 28 days, Custer’s victory at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon makes him the youngest NASCAR truck winner in history for now.

In 2016, he made his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, the team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. However, he didn’t manage to grab victory as rookie in the second NASCAR league. This long-awaited first place followed in 2017 with Stewart-Haas Racing at Homestead. Custer qualified for the Xfinity playoffs twice in a row, but failed to make it to the final round.

Credtis: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images

It wasn’t until 2018 that he got his first chance to win the Xfinity title. With a win at the Texas Motor Speedway, the Stewart-Haas driver qualified for a place in the final, which he finished in second place behind Tyler Reddick, who grabbed the title. In 2019, Custer again entered the final and again only a second place jumped out, because Reddick defended his title.

Since the 2020 season Custer has been driving the #41 car for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, which the talented Californian has taken over from Daniel Suarez. Since then, Custer has really cut a fine figure: in the 2020 season, he has so far achieved one victory, two top 5 and three top 10 results. In the battle for the rookie title he currently lies in second place behind Reddick and ahead of Christopher Bell and John-Hunter Nemechek.

Another anecdote about Custer’s first Cup victory: Buescher, who last won a Cup race as a rookie in 2016, benefited from a red flag due to rain in Pocono. The last time a rookie won a full race was in 2007. That was none other than Juan Pablo Montoya in the Ganassi Chevrolet in Sonoma.

Custer and his fiery temper

Custer has become known in recent years for his short fuse and his feud with Reddick. The two youngsters will fight for the rookie title in 2020 in the Cup Series, with Reddick leading the standings now. The two have also competed for the Xfinity title twice, both times Reddick won.

The rivalry between both drivers reached its climax in 2019 at the Kansas Speedway. Brandon Jones had just won the race and was giving his winner interview when a fight broke out in the pit lane.

Credits: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

The protagonists were of course Custer and Reddick. Before that, there had been contact between the two on track, which is why Reddick was very angry after the race. But it was not the first time that Custer showed his fiery temperament, because in 2016 there was a clash with Nemechek, against whom Custer will also race for the rookie title this year.

At that time both were still driving in the Truck Series and fought for the race win at Mosport, Canada. On the road course the two crashed into each other several times on the last few metres, which is why they crossed the finish line in the grass, pushing and rubbing. Nemechek won the race and grabbed the chequered flag after the race to celebrate. Then Custer came running and tackled down Nemechek in football style.

So Custer is known for his temper. With his first victory in the NASCAR Cup Series, he has now certainly earned the respect of his much more experienced colleagues. At the age of 22, the Californian has a great NASCAR career ahead of him and with Stewart-Haas Racing he is currently sitting in a car that can bring him to the top of the sport.

André Wiegold