Custer grabs dramatic Xfinity victory in overtime at Portland

From starting at the rear of the field to muscling his way to the front, Cole Custer found himself at the right spot at the right time to steal the spotlight and drive to an overwhelming victory in the second annual running of the Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland International Raceway on Saturday, June 3.

The 25-year-old Custer from Ladera Ranch, California, led two times for five of 77 over-scheduled laps as he methodically carved his way to the front despite starting at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments to his car. Then after spending the majority of the event running towards the front, where he claimed the second stage victory in a photo finish, Custer seized an opportunity during an overtime shootout when Parker Kligerman collided against the leaders Justin Allgaier and Sheldon Creed entering the first turn. This caused Kligerman to lose his momentum as both Allgaier and Creed took the chicane before blending back onto the circuit while Custer muscled into the lead. Once he had the lead, the Californian spent the final two laps fending off a late charge from Allgaier to claim his first Xfinity victory of the 2023 season.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, Sheldon Creed notched his first career pole position after posting a pole-winning lap at 95.694 mph in 74.111 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Cole Custer, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 95.398 mph in 74.341 seconds.

Prior to the event, however, Custer joined Blaine Perkins, Sam Mayer, Garrett Smithley, Brandon Jones, Joe Graf Jr., Parker Kligerman, Jeremy Clements, Patrick Emerling, Anthony Alfredo and Josh Williams as a host of competitors who started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries. Stefan Parsons also dropped to the rear of the field due to an engine change made to his car.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Creed and John Hunter Nemechek, who moved up to the front row, dueled for the lead entering the first two sets of sharp turns. Then as Creed fended off an early challenge from Nemechek, where Nemechek bumped Creed through the first two turns, rookie Chandler Smith spun in the middle of the turn after getting hit by Connor Mosack while running in the top 10. This caused the rest of the field to scatter and fan out across the chicane and the turns while Creed maintained the lead. After navigating his way through the 12-turn circuit, Creed proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of Nemechek as Jordan Taylor, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier and Austin Hill followed suit.

During the second lap, rookie Sammy Smith pitted to address a shifter issue to his No. 18 Pilot Flying J Toyota Supra that was stuck in second gear. Amid Smith’s issues, Creed retained the top spot with a steady advantage over Nemechek while Jordan Taylor retained third.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Creed was leading by half a second over Nemechek followed by Taylor, Berry and Allgaier while Austin Hill, Daniel Hemric, Myatt Snider, Kaz Grala and Jeb Burton in the top 10. By then, Connor Mosack was in 11th ahead of Riley Herbst, Alex Labbe, Brett Moffitt and Dylan Lupton while Cole Custer, Anthony Alfredo, Leland Honeyman, rookie Parker Retzlaff and Ryan Sieg occupied the top 20. Two laps earlier, Parker Chase, who was running towards the rear of the field, had plummeted below the leaderboard after spinning in Turn 1.

Just past the Lap 10 mark, Creed continued to lead by more than eight-tenths over Nemechek while Allgaier, Taylor and Berry were in the top five. By then, Custer had cracked the top 15 after starting at the rear of the field. A lap later, Ryan Sieg and Leland Honeyman spun in Turn 4 after making contact and going off the course.

On Lap 16 and while Creed retained the lead by more than a second over Nemechek, Brennan Poole ran into early issues after he went off the course in Turn 11. He would then take his JD Motorsports entry to the garage without drawing a caution.

Nearing the Lap 20 mark, however, the first caution of the event flew when Stefan Parsons came to a stop in Turn 3 Then prior to a restart with five laps remaining in the first stage, Hemric, who was in the top 10, pulled his No. 11 Cirkul Chevrolet Camaro that was on fire off the course as his event came to an early end.

With the restart occurring with two laps remaining in the first stage, Creed and Nemechek dueled for the lead entering the first turn as Myatt Snider, who restarted in the top 10, fanned out in an attempt to gain spots. In spite of the bumps that were ongoing amid the front runners, the field navigated smoothly through the first two tight turns as Creed retained the lead over Nemechek and Berry while Allgaier, Hill and Taylor were in the top six.

Prior to the final lap, Nemechek made his move beneath Creed entering the frontstretch as he assumed the lead entering the first two turns. Creed quickly responded back through Turns 4 and 5 before Nemechek fended off Creed’s run and maintained the top spot. Then after fending off Creed’s attacks through Turns 5 to 7, Nemechek appeared to pull away through Turns 8 to 10. In Turn 11, however, Nemechek went wide, which allowed Creed to draw beneath him and lightly rub fenders with Nemechek before he reassumed the lead. With the lead back in his grasp, Creed managed to pull away and conclude the first stage scheduled on Lap 25 with his second stage victory of the season. Nemechek ended up second followed by Allgaier, Hill and Berry while Taylor, Custer, Snider, Parker Kligerman and Herbst were scored in the top 10. With the rest of the field making its way to the start/finish line, Joe Graf Jr. spun off the course in Turn 11.

During the first stage break, all competitors pitted for non-competitive pit stops, with each given three minutes to make any changes. Amid the pit stops, Brad Perez replaced Leland Honeyman as Honeyman had been under the weather.

The second stage started on Lap 27 as Creed and Nemechek occupied the front row. At the start, Creed launched ahead with the top spot over Allgaier and Nemechek while Custer, who restarted seventh, fanned out to three lanes as he managed to move up to fourth entering the first turn. As the field navigated its way through the first two sharp turns, trouble struck for Berry as Hill hit and sent Berry’s No. 8 Tire Pros Chevrolet Camaro for a spin. With Berry spinning his car off the course, the event remained under green flag conditions as Creed retained the lead while the field behind scrambled and jostled for positions.

Then on Lap 33, Allgaier gained a run and battled dead even with Nemechek, who briefly lost his momentum while challenging Creed for the lead, through Turns 7 and 8 before gaining second place. In the process, Creed managed to maintain the top spot by nearly half a second. During the following lap, the battle for the lead became a six-car battle as Custer, Kligerman and Jordan Taylor closed in for the battle of the lead.

By Lap 40, Creed continued to lead by two-tenths of a second over Allgaier followed by Nemechek, Custer and Kligerman while Taylor, Myatt Snider, Hill, Herbst and Sam Mayer were in the top 10. Behind, Alex Labbe was scored in 11th over Jeb Burton, Chandler Smith, Connor Mosack and Brett Moffitt while Anthony Alfredo, Retzlaff, Kaz Grala, Brandon Jones and Josh Williams were running in the top 20.

Two laps later, trouble struck for Preston Pardus, who spun in Turn 10 and briefly stalled his car before he limped it back to pit road. With the event remaining under green, Creed maintained the lead as Allgaier, Nemechek and Custer engaged in a fierce battle for second place. Kligerman would close in to join the battle as the top-five competitors were separated by less than two seconds.

Another four laps later, Chandler Smith, who served an early pass-through penalty for missing the chicane, spun in Turn 11 while running within the top 15, but he continued despite plummeting to 20th. Not long after, Snider spun his No. 19 Tree Top Toyota Supra in between Turns 8 and 9 while running in the top 10, but he also continued as he dropped to 12th. In the process, the battle for the lead ignited between the top six as Creed remained out in front ahead of Allgaier, Nemechek, Custer, Kligerman and Taylor.

Prior to the final lap of the second stage, Nemechek made his move beneath Allgaier through Turns 10 and 11 as he overtook him for second. Custer would then follow suit and move up to third entering Turn 1 as Allgaier slipped to fourth while Creed retained the lead. Then after trailing Creed for nearly the entire final lap, Nemechek put the front bumper to Creed’s rear bumper and sent Creed’s No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro spinning off the course in Turn 11. This allowed Custer to draw even beneath Nemechek entering the frontstretch as he and Nemechek dueled for the stage victory. At the start/finish line, Custer managed to peek ahead and edge Nemechek in a photo finish to capture the second stage victory on Lap 50, which also marked Custer’s third stage victory of the season. Nemechek ended up in second followed by Allgaier, Kligerman and Taylor while Creed was able to salvage sixth. Mayer, Herbst, Hill and Jeb Burton were scored in the top 10.

During the second stage break, all competitors led by Custer pitted for non-competitive pit stops as they all retained their respective spots from the second stage’s conclusion.

With 23 laps remaining, the final stage started as Custer and Nemechek occupied the front row. At the start, Custer had appeared to pull ahead from the field until he went wide and missed the first turn as he was forced to take the chicane. With Custer off the track and pulling a stop-and-go move to avoid a penalty, Allgaier assumed the lead followed by Nemechek, Kligerman and Creed through the first three turns and entering a series of right and left-hand turns in Turns 4 and 5. As the field behind jostled, Allgaier managed to maintain the top spot by a steady margin over Nemechek while Creed battled Kligerman for third.

A few laps later, Sam Mayer carved his way to the front as he battled and overtook Kligerman for fourth while Allgaier remained as the leader over Nemechek and Creed.

With 20 laps remaining, Allgaier was leading by six-tenths of a second over Nemechek followed by Creed, Mayer and Kligerman while Taylor, Hill, Custer, Snider and Herbst were in the top 10. Behind, Mosack was in 11th ahead of Brett Moffitt, JEb Burton, Labbe and Alfredo while Jones, Berry, Retzlaff, Chandler Smith and Dylan Lupton were mired in the top 20.

Then approaching the final 19 laps of the event, Creed delivered payback to Nemechek as he tapped and sent Nemechek’s No. 20 Red Bird Farms Toyota Supra for a spin in Turn 11 while the rest of the field scattered to avoid hitting Nemechek. With the race remaining under green and as Nemechek continued, Kligerman overtook Creed for second as Hill, Taylor, Custer and Mayer joined the battle for second. In the process, Allgaier retained the lead by nearly three seconds.

Down to the final 15 laps of the event, Allgaier maintained the lead by more than two seconds over Creed and more than three seconds over third-place Kligerman while Hill and Custer were scored in the top five. Meanwhile, more trouble struck for Nemechek as he got slammed by teammate Sammy Smith, who overshot the first turn and had to take the chicane. Shortly after continuing, Nemechek ran into the side of Smith to express his displeasure as both sustained tire rub and damage to their cars. Both Joe Gibbs Racing teammates would pit simultaneously for repairs.

With 10 laps remaining, Allgaier continued to lead by more than four seconds over Kligerman while Creed, Hill, Custer and Mayer occupied the top six on the track. Behind, Taylor was in seventh followed by Snider, Mosack and Labbe. By then, Nemechek, who returned to the track, was lapped by the leaders.

Two laps later, the caution flew when Herbst, who was running a lap down in the top 30 amid overheating issues, pulled his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang off the course in Turn 9 as the car went up in smoke and flames. The caution erased Allgaier’s advantage of more than four seconds over Kligerman.

Down to the final five laps, the race restarted under green. At the start, Allgaier and Kligerman dueled for the lead entering the first turn. Then entering the first sharp turn, Allgaier managed to pull ahead while Creed quickly followed suit in second. Meanwhile, Kligerman locked up the tires and slipped to battle with Custer for third while Mayer and Snider pursued. Through Turns 4 to 7, Allgaier maintained the lead over Creed while Custer and Kligerman battled for third.

As the field returned to the frontstretch to hit the final four-lap mark, Alfredo and Retzlaff spun in Turn 11, but the race remained under green as the field scrambled and jostled for spots. Shortly after, Jeb Burton spun in Turn 4 after getting hit by Chandler Smith whom he had a run-in with through the frontstretch. Then with three laps remaining, the caution returned for debris on the backstretch. The caution period was enough to send the event into overtime.

At the start of the first overtime attempt, Allgaier peeked ahead of Creed while receiving a push from Kligerman before Kligerman tried to make his move beneath Allgaier entering Turn 1. Through the turn, however, Kligerman locked up the front tires and could not steer his No. 48 Big Machine Racing entry to make the turn as he collided against Allgaier and Creed, sending both into the chicane while Kligerman was trying to regain his momentum on the track. Amid the chaos, Custer came out on top in his No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang with the lead while Allgaier and Creed managed to blend back onto the track in second and third with Mayer joining the battle. With the field behind jostling for late positions through Turns 4 to 7, Custer ran away from the field as Allgaier, Mayer and Creed continued to battle for second. Through Turns 8 and 9, Allgaier claimed second while Mayer dueled Creed for third.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Custer remained as the leader ahead of a hard-charging Allgaier. By then, Mayer had shoved Creed off the course in Turn 11 as Creed fell back to seventh behind Hill, Snider and Berry while Mayer moved up to third. Back at the front, Allgaier narrowed the deficit to six-tenths of a second as Custer retained the lead through the first three turns and entering Turn 4. Then after fending off Allgaier’s No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro through Turn 9, Allgaier gained more momentum into Turn 10 and got to Custer’s rear bumper approaching the final set of turns. He then tried to bump and overtake Custer entering the frontstretch, but it was not enough as Custer managed to fend off Allgaier by 0.142 seconds to grab his first checkered flag of the 2023 season in dramatic fashion.

With the victory, Custer claimed his 11th career win in the Xfinity Series, his first since winning at Auto Club Speedway in February 2022 and his first on a road course venue. He also recorded the first Xfinity victory for Stewart-Haas Racing since Chase Briscoe won at Kansas Speedway in October 2020, the first NASCAR victory for crew chief Jonathan Toney and he became the seventh Xfinity regular to win and be guaranteed a spot for the 2023 Xfinity Series Playoffs.

Ironically, Custer’s Portland victory occurred as the Californian achieved his seventh consecutive top-seven finish in recent weeks. This occurred after Custer finished no higher than ninth during the first six-scheduled events on this year’s schedule.

“[I was telling myself] Just try and not make mistakes [on the restarts],” Custer said on FS1. “I saw [Kligerman] drive in there so deep. I did the same thing like two restarts ago. Man, I’m just so happy. I’ve never won a road course race before. I’ve been so close so many times and it’s just awesome to win this. I can’t thank Haas Automation, everybody at Stewart-Haas [Racing] in the Xfinity program and the Cup program. This is just a great day. It’s awesome to get this trophy and get that out of the way. I’m pumped for the rest of the year. We got fast cars and we’re starting to put it all together.”

Allgaier, coming off last week’s victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, finished second after leading 23 laps while Mayer, Berry and Hill finished in the top five. Myatt Snider came home in sixth place in his second start of the season while Creed, who led a race-high 47 laps ended up seventh. Connor Mosack, Chandler Smith and Nemechek completed the top 10 on the track.

There were five lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 10 laps. In total, 27 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.

With the 2023 Xfinity Series regular-season stretch reaching its halfway mark, John Hunter Nemechek leads the regular-season standings by 14 points over Austin Hill, 44 over Justin Allgaier, 65 over Cole Custer and 91 over Josh Berry.

Results.

1. Cole Custer, five laps led, Stage 2 winner

2. Justin Allgaier, 23 laps led

3. Sam Mayer

4. Josh Berry

5. Austin Hill

6. Myatt Snider

7. Sheldon Creed, 47 laps led, Stage 1 winner

8. Connor Mosack

9. Chandler Smith

10. John Hunter Nemechek, two laps led

11. Alex Labbe

12. Brett Moffitt

13. Brandon Jones

14. Parker Kligerman

15. Blaine Perkins

16. Josh Williams

17. Parker Retzlaff

18. Ryan Sieg

19. Jeffrey Earnhardt

20. Patrick Emerling

21. Anthony Alfredo

22. Jeremy Clements

23. Joe Graf Jr.

24. Garrett Smithley

25. Jeb Burton

26. Kaz Grala

27. Jordan Taylor

28. Leland Honeyman – OUT, Accident

29. Dylan Lupton, one lap down

30. Sammy Smith, two laps down

31. Preston Pardus, five laps down

32. Riley Herbst – OUT, Engine

33. Daniel Hemric, 30 laps down

34. Kyle Sieg – OUT, Rear gear

35. Parker Chase – OUT, Tie rod

36. Mason Maggio – OUT, Transmission

37. Stefan Parsons – OUT, Overheating

38. Brennan Poole – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ inaugural event at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, June 10, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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