Sunday May 29th, 2016 5:31PM

Custer conquers Richmond for third K&N Pro East win

RICHMOND, VA - Cole Custer made it look easy.

Sixteen-year-old Custer, of Ladera Ranch, CA, won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East's Blue Ox 100 on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway. He passed teammate and pole sitter Nick Drake on lap 49 and led the rest of the way to collect his third series win in 16 starts.

A pair of wins last season came at Iowa Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 00 NAPA Auto Parts / Haas Automation Chevrolet also collected his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win in the 2014 season opener at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

"We followed Nick in the early part, but part of it was I spun the tires on the first couple of restarts," said Custer. "I finally figured it out and we got him on the restart."

With no planned stops in the 100-lap race on the .75-mile oval, saving tires was certainly part of the equation.

"I was trying to save what I could, but when you're out front, it's hard to figure out how much," he stated. "I thought (Rhodes) was definitely going to get me. I thought I went too early, but we were able to hang on."

Points leader Ben Rhodes finished second for his fourth top-five showing in five outings this season.

"It was as good race for us. I was just being patient in the beginning," said the 17-year-old out of Louisville, KY. "When I saw Cole go, I knew I'd better go. I just wasn't able to catch him. It was a good day and a good points day, and I'm really happy with our finish."

Drake, who won his first series career pole award in qualifying Friday, battled to finish third.

"We led the first half of the race or so before Cole got around us," said the 18-year-old Drake. "We struggled with grip pretty much all day, but I'll take a third. It was a pretty good day."

Austin Hill crossed the line in fourth followed by Ronnie Bassett, Jr. in fifth while Cameron Hayley, Brandon Jones, Brodie Kostecki, Jeremy Burns and Jesse Little rounded out the top-10 finishers on the day.

Daniel Suárez, who made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing on Friday, battled electrical problems and finished 32nd.

Custer, along with Rhodes, Hill and Little, were introduced as 2014-15 members of the NASCAR Next class Friday. NASCAR Next is a program that spotlights the sport's emerging stars.

In the standings, Rhodes leads Gaulding by 18 points followed by Hayley, Suárez and Little.

The race was originally scheduled to be run following the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Friday, but a three-hour rain delay in getting that race underway pushed the Blue Ox 100 to Saturday morning.

The Blue Ox 100 will be telecast by FOX Sports 1 on Friday, May 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is back in action next on Saturday, May 17 for the Casey's General Stores 150 at Iowa Speedway in Newton.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Richmond International Raceway - Richmond, VA
Blue Ox 100 - April 26, 2014

Fin Str Car Driver Team Laps Points B/Points Status
1 2 00 Cole Custer NAPA Auto Parts/Haas Automation Chevrolet 100 48 5 Running
2 5 41 Ben Rhodes * Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet 100 42 Running
3 1 15 Nick Drake * NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 100 42 1 Running
4 21 22 Austin Hill * Don-Rich Ford/A&D Welding Ford 100 40 Running
5 9 04 Ronnie Bassett, Jr. * Butler Trailer Mfg. Toyota 100 39 Running
6 16 98 Cameron Hayley Cabinets by Hayley Chevrolet 100 38 Running
7 8 33 Brandon Jones Wolfpack Energy Services Chevrolet 100 37 Running
8 6 43 Brodie Kostecki * Arcoplate Toyota 100 36 Running
9 30 81 Jeremy Burns * BBR Chevrolet 100 35 Running
10 20 97 Jesse Little NASCAR Technical Institute/PFC Brakes Chevrolet 100 34 Running
11 7 20 Gray Gaulding Krispy Kreme Chevrolet 100 33 Running
12 3 29 Chad Finley * Auto Value/Air Lift Ford 100 32 Running
13 29 52 Matt Tifft Federated Auto Parts Dodge 100 31 Running
14 13 31 Kaz Grala * OzLINK Chevrolet 100 30 Running
15 14 21 Mackena Bell Special Smiles Pediatric Dentistry Toyota 100 29 Running
16 18 1 David Garbo, Jr. * Big Machine Records/Garbo Lobster Toyota 100 28 Running
17 12 45 Josh Berry * Speedco Ford 100 27 Running
18 4 34 Scott Heckert Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet 100 26 Running
19 28 46 Brandon Gdovic American Messaging/ Toyota 100 25 Running
20 32 14 Trey Hutchens * All-Star Trucking Chevrolet 100 24 Running
21 10 11 Lee Pulliam * NISCO/NRC Toyota 100 23 Running
22 27 2 Ryan Gifford UTI/NASCAR Technical Institute Toyota 100 22 Running
23 34 12 Beto Monteiro * Lenovo/Champion Oil Dodge 99 21 Running
24 37 63 John Salemi John Salemi Racing Toyota 99 20 Running
25 25 18 Sam Hunt DRIVE Technology Toyota 98 19 Running
26 23 24 Brennan Newberry Qore24 Chevrolet 98 18 Running
27 11 71 Eddie MacDonald Grimm Const./National MS Society Chevrolet 89 17 Rear Seal
28 19 42 Jay Beasley * Toyota Racing Development Toyota 86 16 Brakes
29 26 7 Michael McGuire * Woods Towing & Transportation Toyota 83 15 Brakes
30 24 4 Sergio Pena Toyota Racing Development Toyota 68 14 Accident
31 36 56 Akinori Ogata ENEOS Toyota 50 13 Accident
32 15 6 Daniel Suarez Silent Circle/Telcel Toyota 40 12 Electrical
33 31 91 Jordan Anderson Tab, Inc. Toyota 35 11 Accident
34 22 07 Clint King * Nashville Wire/Warehouse Design Toyota 34 10 Accident
35 17 96 Kenzie Ruston Ben Kennedy Racing Chevrolet 34 9 Accident
36 33 55 Jerry Dawson * EXIT Realty Toyota 22 8 Overheating
37 35 19 Chuck Buchanan, Jr. * Spring Drug Chevrolet 18 7 Handling

Fastest Qualifier: Nick Drake *, Time: 22.175 Seconds, Speed: 121.759 mph
Time of Race: 0 hrs., 59 mins, 33 secs Average Speed: 75.567 mph Margin of Victory: .178 Seconds
Caution Flags: Laps 27-33 (#55 Spin Turn 3 - FP #4); 35-39 (#96, #91, #07 Turn 3&4 - FP 4); 41-47 (#6, #63, #21, #1, #24, #2 - FP #4); 51-58 (#56 Spin Backstretch - No FP); 86-90 (#42 Turn 4 - FP #2). 5 for 32 laps.
Lap Leaders: Nick Drake * 1-48, Cole Custer 49-100.
Total Laps Led: Cole Custer 52, Nick Drake * 48. 1 changes involving 2 drivers.

Top 10 Driver Points: Ben Rhodes * 202, Gray Gaulding 184, Cameron Hayley 180, Daniel Suarez 165, Jesse Little 163, Austin Hill * 160, Kaz Grala * 160, Brandon Jones 156, Nick Drake * 154, Brodie Kostecki * 154
* Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender
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