All eyes were on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing throwback scheme. Not just because his Ford had the “eyes” scheme dating back to 1965 and AJ Foyt, but he had the speed.
Jumping to finish second in the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway, Custer ended higher than he ran most of the day in the 147-lapper.
Starting sixth, the No. 00 was a top-five contender for most of the day until drivers like Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick fell out of contention due to accident. This assisted Custer in the pursuit of his second XFINITY win.
I am really happy with our run just because of how our race started,” Custer said. “We had to tighten the car up to where I could be secure and aggressive with it. It was a good day. I liked our speed today.”
As the temperature in South Carolina stayed above 90 degrees, the on-track conditions led to more difficulties for Custer. Mentioning his loose car, Custer also struggled on restarts, which may have cost him a race-winning battle with winner Brad Keselowski.
“For some reason, I can’t get going on restarts,” he said. “I always spin the tires. I don’t know if that’s something we can do with the transmission or if I need to work on something.
“I was able to hold with [Keselowski] at the start of that run. We had a really good short-tune car, I wouldn’t say we had the best but I tried to save my tires a little bit. I may have caught him a tick if I had a perfect lap but we were equal.”
Despite missing out on Victory Lane again, Custer has personified consistency in 2018. With only two finishes worse than ninth since February at Atlanta, Custer earned his 10th top-five finish this year and 20th top 10, tying himself with Elliott Sadler for most of 2018.
“Our 1.5-mile stuff has always been our strong suit,” he said. “Now, we’re going to get in a stretch where we can really show our speed and get some good finishes. You can make it to the Final 4 without winning but [winning] has to be the goal, you can’t go and try to be consistent.”