Phoenix International Raceway, much like Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, is a flat, rhythmic racetrack that demands precision on both corner entry and exit. Lap after lap, drivers have to attack each corner with the precision of a surgeon, with the penalty for misjudging the entry numerous positions in the running order and a lap or two to reestablish their tempo in order to regain their lost ground.
Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development (HRD), is a driver with a penchant for getting around flat racetracks quickly. With a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory earlier this season at New Hampshire, it would be tough to rule Custer out of contention for his second victory this weekend at Phoenix.
At New Hampshire, Custer started from the pole with a record qualifying lap of 28.877 seconds at 131.897 mph. He then led three times for 148 of the 175 total race laps around the 1.058-mile oval en route to scoring his first career Truck Series victory in just his seventh series start. At 16 years, seven months and 28 days, he became the youngest race winner in NASCAR national series history.
Custer’s flat-track success isn’t limited to the Truck Series. In fact, three of Custer’s four NASCAR K&N Pro Series victories have come at relatively flat racetracks – Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, New Hampshire and Phoenix, the site of Friday night’s 150-mile race.
Custer’s K&N Pro Series West win earlier this season at Phoenix came in just his third start in the series. The 16-year-old driver started from the pole and led 62 of 80 laps en route to claiming the victory.
So while this weekend will mark Custer’s first Truck Series start at the “Diamond in the Desert,” he’s already proven that he knows how to get around the mile oval. Given his history of success at Phoenix and on other racetracks that put a premium on driver ability, combined with his impressive 2014 Truck Series stats, there’s little doubt Custer should be a contender this weekend.