DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When it comes to group qualifying at Daytona, it pays to have a lot of fast friends. It certainly did for Ladera Ranch, California’s Cole Custer, who won the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell Friday afternoon at Daytona Int’l Speedway in preparation for the 53rd running of the Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire Saturday. As a result, Custer, who turned 18 on January 23, becomes the youngest ARCA pole winner in history at Daytona.
Custer, in the No. 54 Ken Schrader Racing-Haas Automation Chevrolet, was able to draft with the fastest cars during his four-minute run, and it paid off with a time of 47.769 seconds, an average speed of 188.407 mph. He came across the stripe fifth in a pack of five, but the fastest among the group.
“We were lucky enough to be in the back of the pack…I was with a really strong group,” Custer said.
“We drifted back three lengths, but we were able to suck up on that second lap. I just want to thank Ken Schrader Racing for this awesome opportunity. I know that Schrader’s car won the pole last year here too, so that’s pretty cool.”
It was Custer’s second career ARCA pole, having won the pole at the New Jersey Motorsports Park road course in his series debut in 2015. If Custer were to win the Lucas Oil 200 Saturday, he would also surpass Kyle Petty as the youngest stock car winner in history at Daytona.
“We have a really solid car. I think it will lead better than we could suck up; so I feel like we’re in really good shape for the race.”
Rookie William Byron, whose practice session this morning was cut short because of an engine change, battled back to qualify second at 188.139 mph in the No. 55 Venturini Motorsports-Liberty University Toyota.
“We were fourth in the pack, and I got a good run with Cole (Custer) behind me for our first fast lap,” Byron said. “We’re starting on the outside for the race. Hopefully, we can get in line early and stay with the fast pack. The outside line might hold up for awhile…it just depends on how the race goes.”
Rookie Chase Briscoe, fastest in practice Thursday, qualified third at 187.958 mph in the No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge.
“I was kind of surprised that we ended up third today, since I was at the front of our qualifying group,” said Briscoe. “I had actually told Cole (Custer) congratulations on the pole before we climbed into our cars. I thought he had the best shot at winning it. I drove one of Cole’s midgets at the Chili Bowl, so I’m looking forward to teaming up with him in the draft tomorrow.”
All three fastest qualifiers will be making their debuts at Daytona.
Veteran Tom Hessert was fourth fastest in the No. 25 Florida Lottery-Venturini Motorsports Toyota. John Wes Townley, the 2013 Daytona ARCA champion, qualified fifth at 187.778 mph in the No. 05 Zaxby’s Chevrolet.
All five top qualifiers came from the same group.
Canadian Cole Powell qualified sixth in a Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet. Matt Kurzejewski, in the Ansell-Menards Toyota, was seventh in front of Derrick Lancaster in eighth, Will Kimmel in ninth and Sean Corr in 10th.
Nine groups with five cars in each pack posted time and speed with no on-track incidents. Each group had four minutes to work with. Qualifying groups were determined by combining both practice sessions from Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
The 53rd annual Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona is live on FS1 Saturday, February 13 and precedes NASCAR’s same-night Sprint Unlimited. ARCAracing.com will feature live timing and scoring and live chat for all on-track activities.
-ARCA Racing Series Press Release. Photo credit: ARCA