Sports

Record win for Custer in New Hampshire truck race

Loudon, NH (SportsNetwork.com) - Sixteen-year-old Cole Custer became the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR national touring series race after he passed Matt Crafton for the lead following a restart with just four laps to go in Saturday's UNOH 175 Camping World Truck event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Custer, who is the son of Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Joe Custer, started on the pole and put on a dominating performance by leading 148 of 175 laps. He had run in front for 144 of the first 147 laps before pitting for a four-tire change during a caution. He dropped to seventh in the running order for the restart.

Erik Jones remained on the track and took over the lead when Custer and the other frontrunners pitted during the caution. Jones was the only one on pit road that had a four-tire change.

After the restart with 23 laps to go, Crafton pulled ahead of Jones to take the lead.

Four of the five cautions in this race occurred during the final 30 laps. The first 100 laps ran under green.

The final caution for an incident involving Brennan Newberry and Darrell Wallace Jr. set up a four-lap shootout to the finish. Newberry spun out when he made slight contact with Wallace while they were battling for a top-five position.

After the last restart, Custer quickly drove past second-place Wallace and then overtook Crafton for the lead. Custer beat Wallace to finish line by 1.15 seconds for his first truck victory in just his seventh start. His win occurred when he was 16 years, 7 months and 28 days old.

"I was really worried because it was so hard to pass," Custer recalled when he had dropped to seventh in the field with 25 laps left. "I couldn't believe we got through all of those guys. We had some great restarts which helped us a lot."

Custer's No. 00 Chevrolet team is sponsored by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas' company, Haas Automation.

Last year when Custer was age 15, he became the youngest race winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series history. Custer won two races in that series in 2013, including a victory here at New Hampshire.

"I've been coming to these (Truck Series) races since I was really young, and I've looked up to this series and everybody racing in it," he said. "I could have never imagined being here racing and even winning a race. I can't even explain how amazing this is."

Joe Shear Jr. serves as Custer's crew chief in trucks this season. Shear had previously been the crew chief for Johnny Sauter at ThorSport Racing.

"I thought there was enough laps left that everybody would put four (tires) on, and I did it, but nobody else did, and it shocked me," Shear said of his late-race pit strategy. "But obviously we prevailed."

Jones, who drove Kyle Busch's No. 51 Toyota to a seventh-place finish in this race, previously held the record as the youngest driver to win a NASCAR national touring series event. Jones scored the victory in the truck race at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 8, 2013 when he was 17 years, 5 months and 9 days old.

Crafton, the defending series champion and current points leader, ended up finishing third after he had to start last in the 30-truck field. He did not make a lap in qualifying, held earlier in the day, due to an electrical issue with his No. 88 Toyota.

"Just got beat," Crafton said of the last restart. "I spun the tires and couldn't get it in fourth gear. Once I spun the tires, I was screwed. I couldn't get it in gear, and (Custer) got that run on me."

Crafton now holds a seven-point advantage over second-place and ThorSport Racing teammate Sauter, who finished fourth.

John H. Nemechek completed the top-five.

Ryan Blaney placed 10th and fell 17 points behind Crafton. Wallace, who finished in the runner-up spot for the fourth time this season, is 35 points out of the lead.

"I would've had to wreck (Custer) to get by him," Wallace said. "Four tires prevailed for him, so congrats to Cole. That kid is always fast. So it's cool to see that new winner."

Six races remain this season. The series will be at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend.