● Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will be making his milestone 80th career NASCAR Cup Series start during Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But even though the 2020 Cup Series Rookie of the Year has made three previous Cup Series starts on the 1.54-mile oval and another four in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series combined, he will in essence be seeing the 62-year-old facility for the first time this weekend. The track underwent a wholesale reconfiguration and repave since Custer and his fellow Cup Series competitors last raced there in July, its banking increased from 24 to 28 degrees, the racing surface narrowed from 55 to 40 feet wide, and it has been completely resurfaced with fresh asphalt and an improved, high-tech drainage system.
● With the venerable racetrack’s reinvention, teams will have the luxury of a full, 50-minute practice session Friday before qualifying Saturday and racing for 500 miles on Sunday.
● In his three previous Cup Series starts at Atlanta, Custer scored top-20 finishes in each and has made incremental improvement each outing. He was 19th in his first outing in 2020, and was 18th and 17th in last year’s March and July races, respectively.
● In his three Atlanta starts in the Xfinity Series, Custer’s best was his most recent, when he qualified his No. 00 SHR Ford on the pole and finished second by .191 of a second to Christopher Bell in the February 2019 race. Custer finished 10th in his Atlanta Xfinity Series debut in 2017 before returning in 2018 to qualify fourth but seeing his race end early after a lap-10 accident.
● Custer first appearance at Atlanta came in the February 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, when he started sixth and finished 17th in the No. 00 entry for JR Motorsports.
● After his 16th-place finish last weekend on the Phoenix Raceway mile oval, Custer arrives at Atlanta 24th in the driver standings, 63 points out of first.
● Riding along with Custer and the No. 41 SHR Mustang for the first of three races this season is Dixie Vodka. Launched in 2014 and based in Charleston, South Carolina, Dixie Vodka was established with the simple mission of creating an all-American premium craft vodka that represents the best of Southern flavor, craftsmanship and hospitality. With six signature flavors – including its flagship Southern Original, Black Pepper, Citrus, Mint, Peach and Wildflower Honey – Dixie Vodka partners with local farmers across the South to infuse regionally cherished ingredients into its award-winning products, each of which is six-times distilled from American corn. In 2020, Dixie Vodka was ranked the ninth-fastest growing spirits brand in the United States by the Beverage Information Group and remains the largest premium craft vodka produced in the Southeast. In partnership with the Southern-raised sport that transcends regional boundaries, Dixie Vodka is proud to serve as the Official Vodka of NASCAR and the Official Vodka of Stewart-Haas Racing. Dixie Vodka donates at least 1% of all profits through its 1% for the Planet program, a commitment to supporting non-profits that work to protect the future of the planet. A core brand within the Grain & Barrel Spirits portfolio – an innovation-driven beverage platform that develops and scales craft spirits brands led by founder Matti Anttila – Dixie Vodka can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and on shelves in more than 30 states.
● Last year, Custer and the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang introduced three of the company’s newest product offerings – Tony’s Tea, named after SHR co-owner Tony Stewart, along with Greyhound Cocktail, and Peach Cocktail. Dixie Vodka will return to the No. 41 Mustang team as primary sponsor for the 600-mile race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May, and for the second year in a row at Nashville Superspeedway in June.