Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development (HRD), had a handful of goals at the onset of the 2014 racing season. Those goals were lofty, but Custer proved that he was more than capable of reaching each of them. In his most recent start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, at the age of 16 years, seven months and 28 days, Custer checked the biggest box on the list – to become the youngest driver in NASCAR national touring series history to win a race.
For Custer, earning that first win wasn’t just for his own personal achievement. It was also for Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation and owner of HRD in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. With the win at Loudon, Custer delivered Haas his first victory in NASCAR’s third-tier series. And, with that win at Loudon, Haas Automation Chevrolets have now been to victory lane in NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series competition.
The first win for Haas Automation came in June 2004, when the late Jason Leffler took the checkered flag at the Federated Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. Almost 10 years later, Kurt Busch was able to deliver a Sprint Cup victory for the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world when he was able to hold off six-time Sprint Cup champion and eight-time Martinsville (Va.) Speedway race-winner Jimmie Johnson to win the STP 500 this past March.
Haas Automation had been a sponsor in the Nationwide Series for two years before getting its first victory in that series, and for 12 years in the Sprint Cup Series. It took Custer just seven starts into his first limited Truck Series season to score his victory.
Custer will hope to ride the wave of momentum generated by his victory into Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville when, for the first time in his brief Truck Series career, he will return to a racetrack where he’s raced previously this year. In his series debut at the Virginia short track in March, Custer ran inside the top-10 for much of the race, but a number of beating-and-banging incidents and late-race caution flags led him to an 11th-place finish.
As Custer rolls into Martinsville, he looks to improve on his finish in March. And if he’s able to make a little more history along the way by winning another race, he certainly wouldn’t mind at all. While that accomplishment wasn’t necessarily on his list of preseason goals, he certainly isn’t opposed to amending the list and giving his No. 00 team another box to check.