With less than three laps to go, it looked like a veteran was heading to victory lane in Sparta, Kentucky.
However, the narrative would flip to that of a rookie, as Cole Custer would collect the victory at Kentucky Speedway Sunday afternoon.
It is Custer’s second career Cup Series top-five finish and his first victory. His last NASCAR victory came in the Xfinity Series at Dover on Oct. 5, 2019.
While Kyle Busch started on the pole to begin the race, Joey Logano would come out of the gates and contend for first through the opening lap, but a push by Aric Almirola would keep Busch in the lead. Almirola, however, would overtake the lead on lap 10.
Almirola would continue to lead through the competition caution on lap 25. Logano would again contend for the lead on the restart but would get loose and fall back to third.
Almirola would continue uncontested at the top and lead 71 of 80 laps to collect his second stage win of the season. The No. 10 for Stewart-Haas Racing would continue to utilize the clean air and traction compound until lap traffic would give Ryan Blaney the lead with 22 to go in stage two.
The second caution of the day would occur with six to go in the stage when Matt Kenseth slid out on turn four during green-flag pit stops. Brad Keselowski would take the lead on the restart with one to go in the stage to pick up his fourth stage win of the season.
Keselowski would use the traction compound on the restart and take first through turn one. Martin Truex Jr., however, would overtake Keselowski on lap 181.
Debris on lap 228 would lead to the fifth caution of the day. Truex Jr. would cycle back to the lead after the ensuing pit stops. Truex Jr. would then clear Blaney on the restart with 30 to go. However, two back-to-back cautions with less than 30 to go involving John Hunter Nemechek and Jimmie Johnson, respectively, would give Blaney the lead once more.
With 13 to go on the restart, Harvick, running third, would quickly take the lead from the inside lane. The caution flag would again come out with seven to go, as Kenseth would, yet again, spin.
On the green-white-checkered restart, four-wide contact between the top of the field would give Custer an opening on the outside lane and would be enough to claim the victory.
Truex Jr. would finish second. The finish would give the 40-year-old his third top-two finish at Kentucky in the past four races.
Matt DiBenedetto, Harvick and Kurt Busch would round out the top five. It is DiBenedetto’s best finish of the season since he finished second at Las Vegas on Feb. 23. Harvick, meanwhile, extended his top-five finish streak to four.
Almirola would finish eighth. The finish extended his top-10 finish streak to six.
Despite starting on the pole, mechanical issues would yet again hinder Kyle Busch to a 21st-place finish. In ten career races at Kentucky, it is Busch’s worst finish.
Three rookies cracked the top 10 as Custer won, Christopher Bell finished seventh and Tyler Reddick crossed the line 10th.
The Cup Series will head to Bristol to take part in the All-Star Race Wednesday night, and then start points racing again at Texas Motor Speedway July 19. This was the last regular-season Cup Series race to air on the Fox networks for 2020.