NASCAR championship contender hit with major penalty

Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer was docked 20 points and five playoff points following Saturday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

The splitter of Cole Custer’s No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was confiscated by NASCAR officials during pre-race inspection ahead of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race Michigan International Speedway this past weekend, and Custer and his team have since been penalized in a big way.

Following further investigation of the splitter at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, the No. 00 team was found to have violated Sections 14.4.3.C&H in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rule Book.

As a result, Custer has been docked 20 points in the Xfinity Series driver standings, the No. 00 team has been docked 20 points in the owner standings, and crew chief Jonathan Toney has been fined $25,000.

Additionally, Custer and the team have both been docked five playoff points, which could prove significant as the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs progress.

The 25-year-old Ladera Ranch, California native still sits in fourth place in the point standings through 21 races, but instead of being 86 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek for the points lead, he sits 106 points back. He sits 45 points ahead of JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry in fifth instead of 65.

Custer is in his first full season in the Xfinity Series since 2019 after spending the last three seasons competing for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series. He has found victory lane twice this year at Portland International Raceway and at the new Chicago Street Course and has recorded six other top five finishes throughout the season.

While the penalty did not initially lose Custer any spots in the point standings, it could still end up affecting where he finishes in the regular season. This, in turn, could cost him additional playoff points, since more playoff points are given to the top 10 drivers in the standings on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale ahead of the playoffs.

There are still five races remaining on the 26-race regular season schedule. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Watkins Glen International, Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, and Kansas Speedway are all set to host races before the three-round, seven-race playoffs are scheduled to begin at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, September 15.

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