16-year-old Cole Custer becomes youngest-ever winner of NASCAR national series race

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After dominating much of the afternoon, Cole Custer used several restarts to rally from losing track position late and win the UNOH 175 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Custer becomes the youngest-ever winner of a NASCAR national series race at 16 years, seven months, 28 days. He also claims his first Truck Series win in just his seventh career series start.

The teenager had been flawless from the pole position, but after a caution came out with 30 laps left, Custer went in and took on four tires instead of two like the rest of the leaders that pitted with him.

That left him seventh for the restart with 23 laps remaining. However, two more cautions with 15 to go and nine to go gave Custer enough opportunities to make headway.

Then, on the final restart with four laps left, Custer took advantage of Matt Crafton spinning his tires and re-claimed the lead heading into Turn 1.

He would go on to win by 1.1 seconds over Darrell Wallace Jr., with Crafton slipping to third. Johnny Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek completed the Top 5.

“I was really worried [after taking four tires] – it was so hard to pass even lapped cars, so I couldn’t believe we got through all of those guys,” Custer told Fox Sports. “The air affects it so much. We had some great restarts, which helped us a lot.

“I just can’t believe this is happening right now…I’ve been coming to these races since I was real young and I’ve looked up to this series and everybody that races in this series. I could’ve never imagined being here racing and even winning a race. I can’t even explain how amazing this is.”

Cameron Hayley, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Joey Coulter, and Ryan Blaney made up Positions 6-10. Before today, Jones had been the previous youngest-ever winner in NASCAR national series competition after winning in the Trucks last fall at Phoenix (17 years, five months, nine days).

As for the championship picture, Crafton’s charge from dead last on the grid to third enabled him to not only keep his lead in the standings but extend it to seven markers over teammate Sauter going into next Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Blaney did well to recover from a late spin and claim a Top-10 finish, but he did lose ground to Crafton. He’s now 24 points behind in third position as the series heads for Sin City. Wallace is at 35 points back after his runner-up performance today.

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500