Cole Custer masters Gateway, becomes the youngest driver (16 years old) to ever win Truck Series pole

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16-year-old Cole Custer became the youngest driver to ever earn the pole in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and will lead the field to the green for Saturday night’s Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis.

Custer was fastest in the final practice session earlier in the day at the Madison, Illinois track, and then came right back to take the top starting spot in qualifying with a speed of 136.426 mph at 32.985 seconds. Both marks are new track records.

Even more surprising, it was Custer’s first-ever qualifying effort in a truck.

“I think we want to win, think we have a car capable of winning,” Custer said. “If we just bide our time and save our tires just a little bit and run a smart race, we’re going to be fine.”

Darrell Wallace Jr., just 20-years-old himself, was second-fastest (136.401 mph) and will start on the outside of the front row, followed by Erik Jones (136.289), Gray Gaulding (135.923),  Chase Pistone (135.743) and Jeb Burton (135.689).

Seventh- through 12th-fastest were Tyler Reddick (135.505), Joey Coulter (135.322), German Quiroga Jr. (135.155), Timothy Peters (135.123), Matt Crafton (134.981) and John Hunter Nemechek (134.823).

Only eight drivers in the 32-driver field have ever raced previously at Gateway.

 

Here’s the starting order for Saturday night’s Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois:

Row 1 Cole Custer, Darrell Wallace Jr.

Row 2 Erik Jones, Gray Gaulding

Row 3 Chase Pistone, Jeb Burton

Row 4 Tyler Reddick, Joey Coulter

Row 5 German Quiroga Jr., Timothy Peters

 

Row 6 Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek

Row 7 Johnny Sauter, Ryan Blaney

Row 8 John Wes Townley, Ron Hornaday Jr.

Row 9 Ben Kennedy, Taylor Malsam

Row 10 Mason Mingus, Ray Black Jr.

 

Row 11 Justin Jennings, Tyler Young

Row 12 Bryan Silas, T.J. Bell

Row 13 Ted Minor, Norm Bening

Row 14 Korbin Forrister, Charles Lewandoski

Row 15 Jennifer Jo Cobb, Scott Stenzel

Row 16 Caleb Roark, Adam Edwards

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Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.