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Cole Custer wins at Darlington after Denny Hamlin DQ'd

by Pete McCole
Saturday, August 31, 2019


Cole Custer celebrates at Darlington
Cole Custer Twitter

There’s a popular expression familiar to every Saturday-night-short-track-racer in the country: The race ain’t over until you go through the tech shed.

As a former short-track racer himself, Denny Hamlin has heard it before, and he heard it again on Saturday night as he found himself going from worst to first to worst again after a disqualification following his win in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway – handing the victory to second-place finisher Cole Custer.

It was a turn of events that wiped out what had been a remarkable victory for Hamlin, who had to come from the back of the pack after starting in a back-up car and then held off a determined charge from Custer in the last 10 laps of the race to take the checkered flag.

But it was not to be.

Hamlin’s No. 18 Sports Clips Toyota was disqualified in post-race inspection for a ride-height violation that relegated Hamlin to a 38th-place finish – one position lower than where he started. Hamlin’s car was among six cars that underwent post-race inspection, and was the only one that failed, according to Xfinity Series director Wayne Auton

Custer had already changed into street clothes and was hangout out at his team’s hauler when he was told he was the winner.

"It's a really strange feeling, honestly—obviously," Custer said. "You don't want that way, but it is what it is. We all play by the same rules. Was that the deciding factor? No.  

"But it is what it is. We get the points. We get the money. We get the trophy, I guess. It's a way to win."

The victory was the sixth of the season for Custer – tying him with Christopher Bell with the most victories this season.

Cole Custer (00) battles Christopher Bell at Darlington
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Custer had dogged Hamlin following a late restart with 10 laps to go and at one point managed to get the nose of his No. 00 Ford Mustang under Hamlin but couldn’t pull off the pass.

"I thought I had him," Custer said after the race. "I really wanted it—finishing second here really sucks. You really want to win at one of the marquee places... I couldn't get a run off of (Turn) 4. I don't know—it was so close."

Hamlin had already accepted the winner’s trophy and had completed his post-race media appearances when the announcement was made.

After learning of his disqualification, Hamlin vented his frustration on Twitter, saying

Hamlin’s disqualification marked the second time a Joe Gibbs Racing entry had failed post-race inspection after Bell’s car was DQ’d after finishing third at Chicagoland Speedway back in June.

NASCAR Had just implemented the disqualification policy this season, and so far two event winners had their victories taken away – Ross Chastain at Iowa back in June and now Hamlin.

Hamlin had started from the rear of the field after smacking the wall with his primary in Friday’s practice session, putting him in a back-up car to start Saturday’s race.

After fighting an ill-handling race car for the first half of the 147-lap race, Hamlin started making up ground in the final stage as his crew continued to adjust on the car.

With 27 laps to go, Hamlin powered past pole-sitter Ryan Blaney on the law side coming into turn one and started to pull away, leading Blaney by half a second before the caution flew with 13 laps to go for a spin involving Josh Williams.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was credited was a fifth-place finish
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The lead lap cars came to pit road under the ensuing caution, with Hamlin winning the race out of the pits followed by Custer and Blaney.

Hamlin got a good jump on the restart while Custer cleared Blaney and started chasing the race leader, trying the low side while Hamlin stayed up high.

With three laps to go, Custer had pulled within a car length of Hamlin and continued to try to gain ground on the low side, but Hamlin’s Toyota had better straightaway speed and was able to fend off Custer, who trailed Hamlin to the finish by a car length.

Tyler Reddick was credited with second, followed by Blaney and Bell.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., - running his first NASCAR race since last September of last year – was credited with fifth.


Finish Start # Driver Sponsor/Make Laps Led Points Status
1 3 0 Cole Custer Production Alliance Group Ford 147 0 52 Running
2 6 2 Tyler Reddick myblu Chevrolet 147 70 53 Running
3 1 12 Ryan Blaney(i) BodyArmor Ford 147 50 0 Running
4 2 20 Christopher Bell McCall's Supply Ruud Toyota 147 0 47 Running
5 14 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hellmann's Chevrolet 147 0 41 Running
6 5 98 Chase Briscoe # Ford Performance Ford 147 0 42 Running
7 7 19 Brandon Jones Mojo Outdoor/iK9 Toyota 147 0 36 Running
8 8 9 Noah Gragson # Adventure Force/Far Out Toys Chevrolet 147 0 30 Running
9 4 7 Justin Allgaier ARMOUR Vienna Sausage Chevrolet 147 0 43 Running
10 9 22 Austin Cindric MoneyLion Ford 147 0 29 Running
11 12 11 Justin Haley # Raybestos Brakes Chevrolet 147 0 28 Running
12 20 51 Jeremy Clements Chevrolet 147 0 25 Running
13 10 1 Michael Annett Baby Ruth Chevrolet 147 0 24 Running
14 13 39 Ryan Sieg Mike D's BBQ Chevrolet 147 0 23 Running
15 15 8 Gray Gaulding Chevrolet 147 0 22 Running
16 18 7 Ray Black II ISOKERNFrplcs&ChmnysScbLf Chev 147 0 21 Running
17 17 90 Alex Labbe DGM Racing Chevrolet 147 0 20 Running
18 11 1 Landon Cassill Flex Seal Chevrolet 147 0 20 Running
19 23 4 BJ McLeod SC Education Lottery Chevrolet 147 0 18 Running
20 22 93 Camden Murphy RSS Racing Chevrolet 146 0 17 Running
21 16 23 John Hunter Nemechek # Fire Alarm Services Inc. Chevrolet 146 0 16 Running
22 21 99 Stefan Parsons Phoenix Construction Toyota 146 0 15 Running
23 27 66 Timmy Hill CrashClaimsR.Us Toyota 146 0 14 Running
24 28 36 Josh Williams Starbrite Star Tron/Simcraft Chevrolet 144 0 13 Running
25 26 35 Joey Gase Carolina Cooker Toyota 144 0 12 Running
26 24 15 Stephen Leicht JD Motorsports Chevrolet 144 0 11 Running
27 33 52 David Starr Steely Lumber Chevrolet 144 0 10 Running
28 36 78 Vinnie Miller Pit Viper Sunglasses Chevrolet 143 0 9 Running
29 29 0 Garrett Smithley Mike Mittler Tribute Chevrolet 143 0 8 Running
30 31 61 Chad Finchum Apple Barn Toyota 133 0 7 Suspension
31 34 5 Matt Mills J.F. Electric Chevrolet 128 0 6 Engine
32 35 74 Mike Harmon Chevrolet 114 0 5 Running
33 19 86 Brandon Brown # Coastal Carolina University Chevrolet 85 0 4 Accident
34 25 17 Joe Nemechek(i) Chevrolet 72 0 0 Brakes
35 32 13 Tommy Joe Martins CrashClaimsR.US Toyota 61 0 2 Transmission
36 30 38 JJ Yeley RSS Racing Chevrolet 34 0 1 Axle
37 38 89 Morgan Shepherd Visone RV Chevrolet 27 0 1 Electrical
38 37 18 Denny Hamlin(i) Sport Clips Toyota 147 27 0 Running


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