Cole Custer wins rain-shortened Xfinity Series race
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer has won the inaugural Xfinity Series race on the streets of Chicago after an unprecedented decision by NASCAR.
The sanctioning body called the race official on Sunday afternoon. This is nothing new as inclement weather has shortened numerous races in the past.
However, NASCAR called the race two laps before its halfway point. The standard procedure is to wait until halfway or the end of the second stage so that the race is ‘official’. NASCAR made the procedure change in Chicago due to safety concerns.
“With standing water and flooding a significant issue at the race track and throughout the city, there was no option to return to racing prior to shifting to NASCAR Cup Series race operations,” said NASCAR in a statement.
“Throughout the entire planning process for the Chicago Street Race, our relationship with the City of Chicago has been strong and among the most valuable assets in reaching this historic weekend.
“In the spirit of that partnership, returning on Monday for the completion of a NASCAR Xfinity Series event two laps short of halfway was an option we chose not to employ. Based on several unprecedented circumstances, NASCAR has made the decision to declare Cole Custer the winner of the race.”
The NASCAR Xfinity Series race was originally set for Saturday, July 1. The drivers were able to climb into their stock cars and complete the first 25 laps, but the race came to a halt due to lightning strikes within eight miles of the course.
The red flag delay continued for more than an hour as lightning continued to reset the 30-minute clock. NASCAR then made the decision to postpone the race until Sunday morning due to the forecast calling for continued lightning in the area.
The plan was to start the race at 10:00 local, but the drivers and teams did not get this chance. A lightning strike delayed the start time and then heavy rain began falling in the area. This led to flooding on the course and standing water.
The track crews attempted to clear the standing water throughout the morning. They also cut holes in the signage to help water drain between the concrete barriers. These efforts were ultimately in vain.
NASCAR’s top three series have a wet-weather package that includes hazard lights, a windscreen wiper, and special Goodyear tyres. However, the standing water meant that there would be concerns about the lack of visibility, something that has led to crashes at Circuit of The Americas and the Charlotte Roval in past seasons.
The reason Custer was declared the winner is that he was in control of the race from the moment the green flag dropped. He started on pole in the #00 Ford Mustang and led all 25 laps before the race came to an end.
John Hunter Nemechek finished second, Justin Allgaier finished third, Brett Moffitt finished fourth, and Austin Hill finished fifth. Moffitt, in particular, delivered a career-best finish for the first-year AM Racing Xfinity Series team.
Custer now has two wins on the season after moving back to the Xfinity Series from the Cup Series, having also won the road course race at Portland International Raceway.
However, Nemechek keeps his points lead over Hill.