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April 22, 2023

Cole Custer finds ‘little bit of luck’ in nabbing Dash 4 Cash bonus at Talladega

Cole Custer celebrates with his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing crew after claiming the Dash 4 Cash bonus at Talladega Superspeedway
Zack Albert
NASCAR Studios

TALLADEGA, Ala. — The process of elimination in the Dash 4 Cash contest within Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race netted out with Cole Custer leaving Talladega Superspeedway $100,000 richer.

Custer outlasted the rest of the Dash 4 Cash bonus-eligible field in Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300, placing fourth after surviving 10 caution periods and a double-overtime finish. His fellow contenders for the Xfinity payday — Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek and Sammy Smith — all finished 30th or worse after crashes sidelined them in the final stage.

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Custer said he was involved in just one of the yellow flags, and the scraped-up right side of his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford would attest, but he said he was thankful for his third consecutive top-five finish and the oversized check that went with it.

“I mean, it’s nice to have a little bit of luck,” Custer said. “You know, I’ve been on the wrong side of luck and a lot of times on these superspeedways, so it’s nice to have a little bit and come out on top of that. But we had a solid car, we raced up front for a little bit there and just guys did a solid job. And you know, we fought hard with it with the damage, the little bit that we had.”

Berry was in position to be the six-figure winner, and the JR Motorsports driver seemed to be living a charmed life after a big save through Turn 4 in the 94th of 121 laps. Just six laps later, he was done, gobbled up in the same corner in a major stack-up behind Ryan Truex’s No. 19 Toyota that also eliminated his JRM teammates Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier.

“It looked like the 19 hesitated a little bit on the block on Sam, and Sam kind of had to check and got a little loose and we were right there and we all just piled into each other,” said Berry, who ended up 30th. “Just kind of an up-and-down day for us. I think we got to the front several times. We just had trouble staying in there for various different reasons, but all in all, I hate to get tore up like that.”

The two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers who were eligible for the bonus met a similar fate. Smith had the worst finish of the foursome, with a crash that ended his day after just 63 laps. His No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was in close competition with the No. 9 JRM Chevrolet of Brandon Jones, when Smith’s car veered left off Turn 2 and crunched into the inside retaining barrier. Smith finished 33rd.

“Either the 9 hit me or just got me really loose, I’m not sure,” Smith said after a quick check at the infield care center. “I never was getting loose at all up top. I haven’t seen a replay so I’m not gonna say anything, but a frustrating day.”

Nemechek’s charge lasted just 18 laps longer, and he wound up just one position better than Smith in the finishing order. A wayward lane change across the start/finish line in front of JGR teammate Truex’s No. 19 sent Nemechek’s No. 20 Supra skidding to the apron and into hard, flush contact with the inside wall.

The final event in the four-race series comes next Saturday at Dover Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM). Drivers eligible for the $100,000 bonus are Talladega race winner Jeb Burton, runner-up Sheldon Creed, third-place finishing Parker Kligerman and Custer.