Cole Custer has dreamed for years about earning a Monster Trophy.
After a caution flag flew late in Saturday’s “Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200” NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race, in the middle of Dover International Speedway’s 50th Anniversary celebration, those dreams turned into golden reality.
Custer remained on the track while other rivals pitted and had enough left in his Stewart-Haas-owned No. 00 Ford to edge Justin Allgaier and earn his first Dover victory.
“I knew we were probably in a good spot staying out there,” said Custer, who has won seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races in 2019. “It was a great pit call by [crew chief Mike Shiplett] to stay out. It is all about track position here. Whatever you can do on strategy and pit stops to get track position, it is what you need to do.”
Allgaier finished second, followed by Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and pole winner Chase Briscoe, who was forced to start in the back of the field for unapproved adjustments between qualifying and the green flag.
Custer is one of eight drivers to advance to the next round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs, along with Christopher Bell, Allgaier, Cindric, Briscoe, Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson and Michael Annett.
“Going into Kansas and Texas, we can just go in there and know that we are firing on all cylinders and we can go in there and win,” said Custer about the Series’ upcoming races.
“It is having confidence on the first lap you hit the track and we can now go in the next round and be one to fight with.”
Custer, who was making his 100th career NASCAR Xfinity Series start, never led until Lap 169, but led every lap except one after that, and survived a late restart before taking the checkered flag over Allgaier by 1 second. Custer led 31 total laps, Allgaier paced 67 and Briscoe headed a race-high 71.
Haley, Brandon Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Sieg were eliminated from the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs after the race. Jones was involved in a crash with Harrison Burton on the very first lap, while Nemechek placed eighth and Sieg finished 10th.
Meanwhile, Custer can now think about what to do with his latest prize – a golden Monster Trophy.
“It will go in my living room or something,” Custer said. “I have wanted to win this trophy and this race for such a long time. We got really close here a couple times in Trucks and a couple times in the Xfinity car.
“To finally win one is pretty huge. It is a trophy everyone wants and a track everyone wants to win at.”
Custer completed the race with an average speed of 107.639 mph, navigating the 200 miles in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 29 seconds. Six caution periods consumed 33 laps.