AVONDALE, ARIZ. — Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek commanded the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Four, leading the way every lap.
In the late afternoon sunshine, Nemechek commanded the championship. He led the championship for the first 52 laps with a stage one win in there.
STAGE ONE TOP-10 (LAP 45): Nemechek, Custer, Chandler Smith, Austin Hill, Sam Mayer, Sammy Smith, Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Myatt Snider, Brett Moffitt
Allgaier recovered from a spin and dropping to 32nd to get seventh in just 35 laps. Championship-contending teammate Sam Mayer went from 19th to fifth.
For stage two, Allgaier gained four positions on pit road. That was about all he could show for the stage as he slid to ninth in the stage.
Meanwhile, as the sun went down, Cole Custer took control with Sam Mayer and Nemechek on his heels. They ran 1-2-3 as Derek Kraus wrecked in turn two and ended stage two under caution.
STAGE TWO TOP-10 (LAP 90): Custer, Mayer, Nemechek, Hill, C. Smith, B. Jones, Berry, Creed, Allgaier, Riley Herbst
In the final stage, Custer held serve until a caution for Chris Hacker bumping into J.J. Yeley exiting turn two. Then, Nemechek took control even through a caution for Myatt Snider wrecking in turn two on lap 138.
As the lights came on and the track cooled down, Custer showed his strength, taking the lead 14 laps into the subsequent green-flag run.
Nemechek hung on, never letting Custer get farther than seven-tenths of a second ahead, even with Justin Allgaier charging hard.
Until a caution for Connor Mosack wrecked in turn four and forced another round of pit stops.
Again, the complexion of the race changed again. Daniel Hemric took two tires and jumped to the lead. Meanwhile, Cole Custer held serve over Justin Allgaier, who passed John Hunter Nemechek with a good pit stop.
Custer impressed owner Tony Stewart who said on the final restart, “I don’t know how he did it. I had to rewatch that restart to see how he did it.”
Justin Allgaier challenged Cole Custer with a three-wide move to the outside. Custer drifted up the track in turn three with Allgaier up high but Custer recovered to take the lead.
Custer came to the line a champion, finally, in his third Championship Four appearance.
TOP-10 FINISHERS (LAP 200): Custer, Sheldon Creed, Allgaier, Riley Herbst, Sam Mayer, Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, Kaz Grala
Custer also led four times for 96 laps in the race and led the championship for 100 of 202 laps.
Nemechek led the championship in the other 102 laps but finished 28th after hitting the wall in overtime.
Championship Four lead changes (7): Nemechek 0-52 (52), Custer 53-90 (38), Nemechek 91 (1), Custer 92-108 (17), Nemechek 109-156 (48), Custer 157-183 (27), Nemechek 184 (1), Custer 185-202 (18)