AVONDALE, Ariz. - Ford driver Cole Custer was already locked in to the Championship 4 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series, so Saturday’s race at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix took place to determine who else would join him.
With multiple drivers facing must-win situations, it was Christopher Bell who was able to come from the rear of the field to post his seventh victory of the year and advance. Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick also made it to the championship final on points after finishing second and sixth, respectively.
Austin Cindric needed a victory to advance and was in the mix all afternoon as he battled all of his other Playoff peers, but track position and some ill-timed cautions prevented him from making a run at the end and resulted in a fourth-place finish.
Custer said his team tried some different things from a setup standpoint and the results weren’t what he was hoping for, but he still managed an eighth-place showing. Custer goes into next weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 300 as one of the favorites due to the fact he dominated last year’s race and posted his first career victory in the series.
Ryan Reed finished 12th and Ty Majeski was 18th for Roush Fenway Racing.
The NASCAR XFINITY Playoffs will conclude on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 300. The race can be seen at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on NBCSN.
Ford Finishing Positions:
4th – Austin Cindric
8th – Cole Custer
12th – Ryan Reed
18th – Ty Majeski
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – WHAT DID YOU NEED THE LAST PART OF THE RACE? “I needed track position and a long green flag run. We had an awesome Discount Tire Ford Mustang today, something definitely capable of winning the race today and locking us into Homestead, but we didn’t quite get what we needed to going to that third strage. I was just relying on track position from there on out and got three cautions we didn’t need, but I’m just really thankful to be in these Playoffs and in this system. I’m excited for Homestead next week. I think we’ve got a really good shot at going out there and being a surprise winner.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU LEARN THIS YEAR? “It was a good warm-up and it’s a good place to be for my first year in the series, second year in stock car racing, but you always want more. Obviously I’m disappointed because I knew we could win today, it just wasn’t in the cards.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU PROVE TODAY DO YOU THINK? “I’m not really out here to prove much. I’ve got the confidence of my team and from there on out it’s my job to represent my sponsors, my team and go out there and win races and we were almost able to do that today, but we came up short.”
YOU WERE AGGRESSIVE TODAY. DID YOU LEAVE EVERYTHING OUT THERE TODAY? NO REGRETS? “I don’t think anyone wanted to race the 22 today and that’s how it needs to be. We were a threat from lap one and unfortunately we just didn’t get the track position and the cautions fall our way. I’m just really proud to be standing where I am in this format and wish we were going to Homestead to race for the championship, but that’s how it goes.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang – HOW DID YOUR DAY GO? “We kind of struggled all day. We kind of tried something different this race and I don’t know if it was what we were looking for, but we’ll go on to Homestead. We just have to do everything to our full potential and we have as good a shot as anybody of winning. We just have to make sure we do everything right.”
HOW MUCH DID THAT WIN HELP YOU FOCUS ON HOMESTEAD AND MAYBE GAIN AN EDGE? “I don’t know if it changes much, it just put less stress on this week. We still have to do our job going into next week.”
CUSTER POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE – HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THIS RACE? “Just like any other race, honestly. Even though we were locked in we still wanted to win. We tried some things this weekend that didn’t work, but now we know and we can come back next year and be better. But I don’t think we went in with a whole different mindset this race.”
HOW DO YOU GO INTO NEXT WEEK AND WHICH ONE IS THE FAVORITE? “We know that everybody in this top four is gonna be fast when we get there. You’ve got to do your homework before you get there and we have a really good baseline to go off of, but we’re gonna have to find a way to make it as good or better because things are gonna change a little bit.”
YOU DON’T HAVE THE SAME CAR FROM LAST YEAR AT HOMESTEAD, SO HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? “All of the cars at Stewart-Haas, we build fantastic cars. I could take any single car out of our fleet and I could take this car this weekend and I think it would be just as good as the car we’re taking to Homestead. I think the tires are gonna be a little bit different. I think it’s a different left side tire. We have the flange-fit bodies this year, so that’s a little bit different. You have to account for those things and make sure that you’re adjusting and making your car as good as it can be.”