Autodesk Fusion 360/ Ford: Cole Custer Sonoma Advance

Notes of Interest


● Cole Custer and the No. 41 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) welcome back Autodesk as primary sponsor for Sunday’s Save Mart 350k NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. It will be a hometown race for San Francisco-based Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), a leader in software applications for the engineering, manufacturing, construction, architecture, media and entertainment industries, which is kicking off its fourth season with SHR.


● Sunday’s 350-kilometer race marks Custer’s 55th career Cup Series start and his first on the 2.52-mile, 12-turn road course located in Northern California’s Wine Country. In his four previous points-paying Cup Series starts on road courses, Custer’s best was an impressive ninth-place run on the Roval circuit at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway last October. In February, the reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year rallied for a 13th-place finish on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course after dropping back as far as 24th while avoiding a multicar accident in the closing laps. In this year’s non-points Busch Clash, Custer drove deep into the top-10 on multiple occasions, but he fell three laps off the pace late in the race when he could not refire his Mustang after serving a self-imposed stop-and-go penalty for missing the backstraight chicane. He finished 20th.


● In his 11 road-course outings in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2017 through 2019, Custer finished outside the top-10 just once with a best result of fourth in the 2018 race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.


● Custer also has top-10s in all three of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series outings on road courses, all three occurring at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. His best was his most recent, a second-place run from the pole with a race-high 39 laps led in the No. 00 JR Motorsports entry in 2016. He also made three starts apiece on the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition, with best finishes of third in the 2016 East Series race at Watkins Glen after having qualified on the pole there the previous year, and fourth in the 2019 West Series race at Sonoma.


● Sunday’s race is the third of a ground-breaking seven NASCAR Cup Series races to be held on road courses in 2021. From 1988 to 2017, there were only two road courses on the schedule – Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The Charlotte Roval was added in 2018, giving the series three road-course venues. The initial 2021 schedule doubled that tally, with Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas, Road America, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course all being added. And when COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the series’ stop this year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the Daytona road course was put in its place.


● After last Sunday’s 21st-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 on the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval, Custer arrives at Sonoma 27th in the Cup Series standings, 110 points behind the 16th and final playoff position.


● Following Sunday’s Save Mart 350k, Autodesk will return as the primary partner for Custer and the No. 41 team for five more races in 2021 – Aug. 15 on the Indianapolis road course, Aug. 28 at Daytona, Sept. 18 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Oct. 3 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Oct. 10 on the Charlotte Roval. The 2021 season marks Autodesk’s fourth year with SHR, and the partnership is more than skin deep. The team uses Autodesk’s Fusion 360 design and manufacturing software extensively to create lightweight, but strong, components for its fleet of racecars.


● Joining Autodesk on the No. 41 Ford Mustang is team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, Haas Tooling, which was launched as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high-quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas cutting tools are sold exclusively online at and shipped directly to end users. products became available nationally last July, and the cutting tools available for purchase at have proven to be even more important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment. Haas Automation, founded by Haas in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.


Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/ Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing


You’re welcoming back Autodesk as your sponsor this weekend and it’s your first time at Sonoma in a Cup Series car. What are your thoughts about this weekend? 

“I’m really looking forward to it. I think the road courses have been something that’s always kind of a wild card and it’s always kind of an equalizer for the field. For us, it’s a great opportunity to have a solid run and hopefully find ourselves with a chance to win by the end of it. Sonoma is a really technical place that I enjoy. It’s a place I haven’t ran in the Cup Series, yet, so it’s going to be a little bit of learning, but it’s just one of those places where you have so much elevation change and that carousel. It’s just a fun racetrack to run and we have Autodesk on the car this week. It’s really cool. We last had them on the car at Texas last fall. I ran an Xfinity race and we won with them and, from there, it’s just been a great relationship and it’s been awesome having them on the car. We use their software a ton at the race shop, to be able to design parts and do different things, so they’re a huge part of what we do.”


This weekend takes you back to your home state to race for the first time since early last year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Any special thoughts on that? 

“It’s still about 10 hours from my home because Northern California is so far from Southern California but, whenever I go back to California, it’s always special. I’m always trying to see family and it’s a homecoming. I always get to have In-N-Out (burger), so I look forward to that. But going to Sonoma I’ve run a few K&N races there and I’ve always loved it. It’s just one of those places where it’s fun to kind of slip and slide around and be able to go up and down the hills and hit the curbs. It’s just one of those places I think every driver loves to go to.”


What’s the toughest part of the track, and what are you doing to prepare?

“I would say, with how they’ve changed the course, one of the toughest turns now is that carousel. I think it’s just a really awkward corner and it doesn’t feel like a corner a racecar should be going through. It’s really tight, really downhill, off camber. It’s just a really tough corner and it’s something where you never go through there and feel like you did it right. It never feels natural, so it’s one of those things you just kind of have to hit your marks and make sure you don’t overdo it through there.”


Are there any things you can apply to this weekend that you learned during your previous visits to Sonoma in other series?

“Like I said, it’s just such a technical racetrack and it’s definitely nice to have some laps around there. There’s so much (tire) fall-off and so much you have to do to try and make it around those slick corners. It’s not an easy place to get around, so having those laps will definitely help, but I’m sure in the Cup car it’s going to be a little bit different trying to figure out, just a lot more horsepower, trying to figure out how you’re going to work it through those corners and be more patient, probably. So I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of learning pretty fast.”


Will previous experience negotiating the carousel be any advantage this weekend?

“Yeah, for sure – a little bit. Being able to kind of know what I’m looking for going through that corner, which leads into a great passing zone, I definitely think opens up some things. If you can get through the carousel pretty good, it opens up a lot of opportunities to pass. There are those cheap corners you’re always looking for to try and make sure you can pass and I think the carousel is definitely one of them.”


The series is heading to Sonoma with a different aero package than its last visit there. What are you studying along those lines for this weekend? 

“That’s a tough one. I’ll probably go back to 2018, when it was the low-downforce package, and I’ll watch some of that, for sure. But obviously you’re going to miss a few corners with that, so in those corners you don’t have, you’re going to kind of guesstimate, to be honest. And you’re going use your simulator at Ford Performance, and we’re going to get an idea of where we need to be braking and where we need to be doing things in those few corners where the carousel is, and I think it’s turn seven after the carousel. It’s a matter of the Ford Performance simulator being a big part of determining where your lift point is going be and figuring out how you’re going to attack those corners going into the weekend.”