When the news came out that NASCAR was hitting Cole Custer with not just a fine but a hefty points penalty, there were questions. Going into the investigation, NASCAR let it be known that they were going to be listening to the team communication of Custer’s 41.
Right as the 41 of Cole Custer and 14 of Chase Briscoe were coming into the chicane on the backstretch, there was something strange. Custer seemed to check up. He was told by his spotter that he had a flat tire and he felt a vibration. So, he checked up. The video and audio, courtesy of Fox’s NASCAR Race Hub show a non-convincing performance.
For what it’s worth, NASCAR says that there is no way for the spotter to know if the car had a flat tire or not. When the call came down, there didn’t appear to be anything from the outside of the car that was damaged. We do know that Cole Custer went from 8th back to 24th by the end of the race.
This was clever, but it looks like NASCAR saw through the ruse. Is this the most blatant assistance in a playoff race? No. Did it break the rules when they did it? Probably. Will this be applied equally throughout the field? Eh…
Cole Custer and his team made a block to let a teammate through. Happens. This time it earned the scorn of NASCAR, $200,000 worth of fines, and 50 driver and owner points taken away. Oh, and indefinite suspension for crew chief Mike Shiplett.
Cole Custer Earns Stewart-Haas More Penalties
This season has not been easy for Stewart-Haas Racing or Fords in general. However, the Cole Custer penalties just add to the mess. Right now SHR is already appealing penalties given to Kevin Harvick from Talladega post-race R&D. Lots of fines, suspensions, and points deductions.
Ultimately, Chase Briscoe is in the playoffs and that’s what matters for Stewart-Haas at the end of the day. Get a driver as far into the playoffs as possible and give yourself a chance to drive for a trophy in Phoenix. NASCAR came out and said early on that the results of their findings would not change the playoff standings whatsoever.
While the move Custer made likely changed the placing of a few individuals, it wasn’t enough to actually change the playoff field, according to NASCAR. So, at least it didn’t alter anything major in the end.
Still, fans are going to be wanting to see consistency from NASCAR either in the form of more penalties in the future, or the laissez-faire approach we’ve seen in the past. Cole Custer took one on the chin to make sure his teammate was in the Round of 8. But, he’s going to have to deal with the consequences now.