HaasTooling.com Racing: Cole Custer Las Vegas Advance

Notes of Interest


● Cole Custer returns to the track where it all began for him in the NASCAR Cup Series when he and his No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval for Sunday’s Las Vegas 400. Custer made his Cup Series debut in the March 2018 race at Las Vegas, when he started 30th and finished 25th in the No. 54 Rick Ware Racing Ford.


● Sunday’s 400-mile race marks Custer’s 78th in the Cup Series and his sixth at Las Vegas. The 24-year-old Southern California native’s 16th-place finish in September 2020 was his best previous result at the desert oval. He started 28th and finished 29th in his previous outing last September.


● Coming off last Sunday’s 11th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Custer arrives at Las Vegas 16th in the driver standings, 37 points behind leader Austin Cindric. Custer finished 20th in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.


● Also last weekend at Fontana, Custer scored his 10th career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in dominating fashion behind the wheel of the No. 07 for SS GreenLight Racing. He qualified second, led a race-high 80 laps and crossed the finish line .565 of a second ahead of runner-up Noah Gragson in the third overtime.


● In Xfinity Series competition at Las Vegas, Custer has five appearances from 2017 through 2019, all behind the wheel of the No. 00 SHR Ford. He started on the pole in each of the last three and posted top-10 finishes in each of the last four with a best of third in the September 2018 race. He’s led a total of 54 laps in Xfinity Series competition at Las Vegas.


● In Custer’s lone career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series outing at Las Vegas, he started and finished third in the October 2016 race, driving the No. 00 entry for JR Motorsports.


● Riding along with Custer and his SHR 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 HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users. HaasTooling.com products became available nationally in July 2020. 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 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

You and your fellow SHR teams have had a solid first two races overall. How are you feeling as you head to Las Vegas this weekend?

“I think right now we’ve done a really solid job. We’ve been competitive at every single race, so far. Are we where we want to be? Are we leading a bunch of laps and up front? I think we still have a little bit of room to grow, but the guys have done a great job over the offseason working hard on this car and this is our year to rebound. We’re working as hard as we can to try and get our cars back up front, but it’s been solid so far. I think we have cars that are driving well and we have stuff that we can build on for the rest of the year.”


Coming off your solid run at Fontana, how do you and the team balance feeling good about that with all you still have to learn with the new NextGen car?

“You’ve just got to take it one week at a time. You kind of have to live in the moment, I guess. Our team did a great job in Fontana. Our pit crew was awesome and you just have to keep building on that. Obviously, things are going to change week to week and you have to use your resources and teammates and everything around you to try and understand this car better. But I think we’re off to a good start and we’ve got to just keep building on it.”


How do you expect the NextGen car to react to the racing surface at Las Vegas?

“You look at Vegas this weekend and it’s going to be very interesting with the bumps in (turns) one and two. At Fontana, people struggled a lot with that bump in three and four and it’s going to be interesting to see what teams push it more than others on aggressive setups and stuff like that, and what drivers push it more because it’s going to be edgy through those bumps.”


What has made Las Vegas so challenging for you over the years, and do you feel the surface has aged a good bit?

“It’s one of those places that’s really in the middle. It’s starting to get the pavement wore out, but it’s still really high-speed and you’ve also got those big bumps in (turns) one and two. It’s a place that is really hard to get ahold of, so it’s going to be an interesting race. It’s going to be a lot of seeing how far guys want to push it. I think you’re going to see, similar to Fontana, where everybody is on the edge and I think you’re going to see that same thing this weekend.”


Can you give a sense of how similar the bumps are from Fontana to Las Vegas?

“It’s definitely a question mark. I think there’s a chance people will be spinning out and really struggling over those bumps. They’re really big. Obviously, we saw a bump at Fontana kind of mess a lot of guys up last weekend, so it’s all about you sitting on these shocks and it’s a very harsh ride. Some guys are going to push it more than others is the biggest thing, so it’s going to be interesting. I don’t think anybody really knows what to expect, so it’s going to be a new experience every single weekend.”


Do you feel you’ll have to change your driving style to adapt with the NextGen car to the track?

“You’re going to change your setup around a little bit, but I think the biggest thing, at least with us, is how you’re going to navigate the bumps in one and two. They’re some of the biggest bumps that we have on the schedule. At Fontana, we saw the problems people had over the bumps in three and four, so it’s going to be a matter of how far you can push it through those bumps and how your car is handling through that.”


How important was it to score that Xfinity Series win last week at Fontana?

“It’s just huge to go back to the Xfinity Series and get a win. All of those guys, (SS GreenLight Racing owner) Bobby Dotter, I mean, to be in victory lane. I know Bobby has been doing it for a really long time, so it was cool to see him back in victory lane, but also for our sponsor, Production Alliance Group. It was their race, the Production Alliance Group 300, and I think he’s been talking for about six months about winning his own race, so it was really cool to make that happen. And that being a home race for me, I mean, it was as good as you can get.”


Safe to say winning that race energized you and the team?

“Obviously, it adds a little bit of confidence. You still know what you’re doing in some respect but, at the same time, you’ve just got to keep focusing on what’s coming next. Obviously, with this NextGen car, it’s pretty much a new experience every single weekend. We don’t know exactly what to expect, so you’ve kind of got to stay on your game and make sure you’re not getting too cocky, I guess you would say. I think it’s definitely, at every single type of racetrack, you have to make sure you’re on your game and adapting as fast as you can.”