HaasTooling.com Racing: Cole Custer Road America Advance
Notes of Interest
● NASCAR’s top national touring series returns to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for the first time in 65 years and for only the second time ever when Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) join their fellow Cup Series competitors for Sunday’s Jockey made in America 250. Tim Flock drove his No. 15 Mercury to a 14-second victory over Billy Myers, with Fireball Roberts finishing a close third, when the NASCAR Grand National Series visited the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit located in the heart of America’s Dairyland in August 1956.
● While it’s his and the rest of the field’s first Cup Series appearance at Road America, Custer has three NASCAR Xfinity Series races and one ARCA Menards Series outing there, all resulting in top-11 finishes. The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, logged finishes of eighth, fourth and 10th, respectively, driving the No. 00 SHR Ford from 2017 through 2019, and qualified on the front row alongside polesitter Matt Tifft in the 2018 event. In Custer’s lone ARCA start at Road America, in August 2017, he started fifth and finished 11th in the No. 78 Ford for team owner Mason Mitchell.
● Custer made three Xfinity Series starts in the No. 00 SHR Ford from 2017 through 2019, never starting worse than third, never finishing worse than seventh, and leading a total of 95 laps in the three events. He qualified third and finished seventh in 2017, then qualified on the pole in both the 2018 and 2019 races, finishing fifth in 2018 and scoring the victory by .228 of a second over Tyler Reddick in 2019 after leading a race-high 58 laps.
● Sunday’s 250-mile race marks Custer’s 59th career Cup Series start and his sixth points-paying Cup Series race on a road course. In his five previous points-paying Cup Series starts on road courses, Custer’s best was an impressive ninth-place run on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval 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 his most recent road-course outing, Custer finished 20th at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway four weekends ago. In this year’s non-points Busch Clash on the Daytona road course, 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 his fourth-place run at Road America in 2018 best of them all.
● 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 fourth 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.
● For the second time in three weeks, and the fifth time this year, Sunday’s race will be preceded by practice and qualifying. Cup Series competitors will have a 50-minute practice session Saturday afternoon, as well as qualifying on Sunday morning.
● After last weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Custer arrives at Road America is 28th in the Cup Series standings, 150 points behind the 16th and final playoff position.
● Returning to Custer’s No. 41 Ford Mustang for SHR 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 HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users. HaasTooling.com products became available nationally last July, and the cutting tools available for purchase at HaasTooling.com 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.
● As announced during the annual Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day weekend, Custer and the team encourage fans to join Wow Wow Classic Waffles in support of Feeding America®, the largest hunger relief organization in the United States with a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Fans are encouraged to text HUNGER to 50555 to make a $5 donation to Feeding America®, by visiting the Feeding America® donation page on Facebook, or the donation page via the Feeding America® website. Each $1 donated helps provide at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks.
Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
You’re returning to Road America, where you’ve enjoyed three solid runs in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but this time in a Cup Series car. Your thoughts?
“I’m really excited for Road America. It’s a really prestigious road course in our country and I think it’s a place where, if you have any bad tendencies, it’s going to show up at Road America. You have so many different corners, there are so many hard corners, it just brings out some of the best road-course racing.”
A good number of other Cup Series drivers have experience Road America in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. Will that experience have any benefit this weekend?
“Obviously, the Cup Series cars are vastly different. I think Road America is a track that’s really tough – it’s a really tough road course. Like I said, if you have any bad tendencies, they’re going to show up there. So it’s going to be a hard racetrack to figure out for a lot of guys who haven’t been there before, I think. I’m happy that I’ve raced there before, which makes it a good thing for me. It’s going to be an exciting race.”
Like we saw at Pocono last weekend, Road America is a place where fans have enjoyed the camping experience at the racetrack for generations. What kind of atmosphere are you expecting for Sunday’s race?
“Those cheese lovers, they might be out of control (laughs). It’s awesome to go up there. Just hardcore race fans, people who live and die by that racetrack, and I think it’s really cool to see people who are that passionate about the sport.”
This weekend marks the second of three new road-course races on the Cup Series schedule. With that, you once again will have the ability to practice and qualify. How does that change your approach to the weekend?
“The biggest thing with the new schedule in NASCAR, with the addition of COTA (Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas) and Road America and the Indy road course, is being able to get laps on those tracks. Being able to maximize your weekend as much as you can, getting laps at those tracks is the biggest thing you can do. Fortunately, I’ve turned a lot of laps at Road America in the Xfinity Series and, as much as I like that track and racing on road courses in general, it’s been frustrating to me that I don’t have a win on a road course in NASCAR. I feel like I’ve run solid and have had a lot of chances to win on road courses, but it just hasn’t ever worked out. I love going to road courses. I think it’s a lot of fun and it brings the driver more into play. Our goal, as always, will be to get a top-10 and try to run all the laps and figure out the best way around the track in a Cup car. Hopefully, we’ll be running in the top-10 and can find ourselves at the end with a shot at the win.”
At just over 4 miles, a lap around the 14-turn Road America layout is now the longest on the Cup Series schedule, each lap somewhat of a “road trip” in itself. If you could go on a road trip with anyone, who would that be, and why?
“That’s a good question. I think a lot of people are probably going say Dale Earnhardt. He’s really iconic in our sport, somebody who I think would be fun to talk to about what it was like back when he first got going and how much the sport’s changed, and what he thinks about it now. I think it would be a really interesting conversation.”
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