Cole Custer was officially awarded Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Cup Series after the conclusion of Sunday’s season-ending event at Phoenix Raceway.
Custer, 22, completed his first full Cup Series season for Stewart-Haas Racing, driving the No. 41 Ford. His year was highlighted by a dramatic first Cup Series victory July 12 at Kentucky Speedway.
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Custer topped Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Brennan Poole and Quin Houff in the Rookie of the Year standings. Harrison Burton (Xfinity Series) and Zane Smith (Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series) claimed Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR’s other national tours.
“I think it was definitely a rookie season with a lot of peaks and valleys,” Custer said. “It was a really interesting season to be a rookie with no practice, no testing or qualifying, so it was a lot of just learning on the fly, but I think we all managed it very well. We had a really good rookie class of me, Tyler, Christopher, John Hunter, I think we all had really good runs throughout the year and it definitely means a lot to win that.”
Custer ended the season with two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. His Kentucky win came thanks to a bold four-wide move that vaulted him from fourth place to first in the final lap. Custer became the first rookie to win a Cup Series race since Chris Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway in 2016.
Custer was the only rookie to qualify for the Cup Series Playoffs. His postseason run ended with his ouster in the Round of 16.