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RICHMOND, Va. – Cole Custer made it look easy.
Sixteen-year-old Custer, of Ladera Ranch, Calif., won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East’s Blue Ox 100 on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway. He passed teammate and pole sitter Nick Drake on Lap 49 and led the rest of the way to collect his third series win in 16 starts. A pair of wins last season came at Iowa Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 00 NAPA Auto Parts / Haas Automation Chevrolet also collected his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win in the 2014 season opener at Phoenix International Raceway in February.
“We followed Nick in the early part, but part of it was I spun the tires on the first couple of restarts,” said Custer. “I finally figured it out and we got him on the restart.”
With no planned stops in the 100-lap race on the .75-mile oval, saving tires was certainly part of the equation.
“I was trying to save what I could, but when you’re out front, it’s hard to figure out how much,” he stated. “I thought (Rhodes) was definitely going to get me. I thought I went too early, but we were able to hang on.”
|5||Ronnie Bassett Jr.|
Points leader Ben Rhodes finished second for his fourth top-five showing in five outings this season.
“It was as good race for us. I was just being patient in the beginning,” said the 17-year-old out of Louisville, Ky. “When I saw Cole go, I knew I’d better go. I just wasn’t able to catch him. It was a good day and a good points day, and I’m really happy with our finish.”
Drake, who won his first series career pole award in qualifying Friday, battled to finish third.
“We led the first half of the race or so before Cole got around us,” said the 18-year-old Drake. “We struggled with grip pretty much all day, but I’ll take a third. It was a pretty good day.”
Austin Hill crossed the line in fourth followed by Ronnie Bassett Jr. in fifth while Cameron Hayley, Brandon Jones, Brodie Kostecki, Jeremy Burns and Jesse Little rounded out the top-10 finishers on the day.
Daniel Suárez, who made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing on Friday, battled electrical problems and finished 32nd, but the weekend wasn’t done for the Drive for Diversity competitor. His third race of the weekend is scheduled for Sunday in Monterrey, Mexico, where he is the points leader in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series.
Custer, along with Rhodes, Hill and Little, were introduced as 2014-15 members of the NASCAR Next class Friday. NASCAR Next is a program that spotlights the sport’s emerging stars.
In the standings, Rhodes leads Gaulding by 18 points followed by Hayley, Suárez and Little.
The race was originally scheduled to be run following the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Friday, but a three-hour rain delay in getting that race underway pushed the Blue Ox 100 to Saturday morning.
The Blue Ox 100 will be telecast by FOX Sports 1 on Friday, May 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is back in action next on Saturday, May 17 for the Casey’s General Stores 150 at Iowa Speedway in Newton.
Cole Custer celebrates his Blue Ox 100 victory at Richmond International Raceway. Getty Images for NASCAR