Cole Custer Oct 1, 2022; Talladega, Alabama, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Cole Custer (41) during qualifying for the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The end of Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 centered around the actions of Stewart-Haas Racing driver Cole Custer. Heading down the backstretch, Custer held up a couple drivers allowing teammate Chase Briscoe to pass all three. That was important because it gave Briscoe a two point margin over Kyle Larson to advance in the NASCAR Playoffs.

On Tuesday, NASCAR determined that Custer violated Section 5.5 of the NASCAR Rule Book about requiring to race at 100% and not do something to “artificially alter” the results of the race. Custer and crew chief Michael Shiplett were each given $100,000 fines while Custer got a 50 point deduction and Shiplett was “suspended indefinitely.”

NASCAR based the fine on radio communication between Shiplett and Custer. Shiplett was letting Custer know that he was getting a flat tire but said that in an area where he couldn’t see the car. And without tracking technology that Formula 1 has that actually tells the team if a tire is going flat, NASCAR figured that it was a way to give Custer plausible deniability to slow down and not get caught trying to get his teammate a few extra points. Because NASCAR determined that Briscoe didn’t know about any of this, he got to keep his playoff spot.

Given that Briscoe got to keep his playoff spot and the only points penalty was dealt to the guy not in the playoffs, you’d think Stewart-Haas Racing would take it and move on. Instead, multiple high-profile members from the team either straight up talked about the penalty or low-key talked about it without actually mentioning it.

For example, SHR co-owner Tony Stewart put out a post about “looking for a new weekend hobby” that seemingly has nothing to do with NASCAR.

Custer’s teammate Kevin Harvick tweeted “I’m so confused..” which honestly could be about anything but given it was posted around the time the penalty was announced, one would naturally believe the two are connected.

Harvick’s teammate Rodney Childers was more direct, reacting to NASCAR’s handling of Chase Elliott’s situation compared to Custer’s. Elliott held up Harvick at last year’s Bristol Night Race that wound up costing Harvick the win. NASCAR determined Elliott’s situation was different as there was no directive from the team to do that and Elliott pretty much retaliated against Harvick instead of doing it to try to get his teammate the win. But Childers, who is naturally going to favor his team, disagreed with NASCAR’s reasoning.

Honestly, this may be the key to Stewart-Haas’ appeal of the Custer penalty. I can see NASCAR’s side where the two situations are different but I can also see Stewart-Haas’ side in that it doesn’t matter what Elliott’s intent was, his actions manipulated the result of the Bristol race and because he wasn’t penalized, they feel Custer shouldn’t be penalized either.

William Byron recently won his appeal after NASCAR recently penalized him for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution. Will Custer win this appeal? That remains to be seen.

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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