Notes of Interest
● Cole Custer and his fellow NASCAR Cup Series competitors will be making history this weekend when the series takes to the 1.25-mile oval at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois, near St. Louis, for the first time during Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300.
● The driver of the No. 41 Feeding America®/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) had a solid three-year run at Gateway in three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series appearances from 2014 through 2016, all in the No. 00 Haas Automation entry. He qualified on the pole and finished sixth in his first outing in June 2014. He followed that up with his second of two career Truck Series wins in June 2015, when he started second and led 19 laps along the way, beating runner-up Spencer Gallagher to the checkered flag by .871 of a second. In June 2016, his most recent outing, he started eighth and finished 15th.
● Riding along with Custer for the second time this season will be SHR partner Wow Wow Classic Waffles, and 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.
● In leadup to this weekend’s race, Custer will be working with the St. Louis organization Dream Builders 4 Equity, which is tackling the vacant home epidemic plaguing the area by hiring youth ages 16 to 24 and pairing them with minority contractors to complete rehabs of currently vacant homes and buildings to be sold to first-time homeowners. The youth are employed at $15 an hour to participate in these rehabs and community development work, in addition to receiving workshops on entrepreneurship, real estate, and personal development skills. They also gain equity in the properties, which means every time a home is sold, portions of the sale go directly to the youth in scholarship form. They also are required to journal during their time participating in the organization’s Summer Academy and Apprentice Programs. The journals are then published in book form in which the youth have 100-percent ownership.
● SHR, Wow Wow Classic Waffles and Feeding America® are also asking fans to continue to do their part in helping to end hunger in America by visiting the Feeding America® 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.
● On April 20, Custer participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Second Harvest Food Bank location in Salisbury, North Carolina. Custer frequently volunteers his time at the Second Harvest location in Charlotte with his No. 41 team members occasionally offering their time to help the community. The Second Harvest organization recently honored Custer, SHR and the Gene Haas Foundation with its New Partner Award for their work over the past 18 months.
● Sunday afternoon’s 300-mile race will be Custer’s 90th Cup Series start.
● Custer arrives at Gateway 27th in the driver standings after his late-race bid for a top-five finish in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway was foiled when he was collected in a multicar accident during the first of two overtimes.
Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Feeding America®/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
You’re heading to Gateway as the Cup Series competes there for the first time. It’s a track where you’ve had success in the past. What are your expectations in the Cup Series car?
“A lot of shifting. With the two different ends, you’re probably going to be shifting twice, I would think, especially in (turns) one and two with how much slower it is. I haven’t run there since they repaved it. The last time I ran there was in 2016 with the Truck Series, so it’s going to be a lot different than when I was last there. It’s going to be interesting just seeing how everybody can work the two different ends. It’s always a balance with these (NextGen Cup Series) cars because they’re so on edge. I don’t know if they’re going to put the resin down, but I think it’ll be a good race.”
Is it exciting to bring Cup Series racing to another new market?
“I think it’s really cool. (The Cup Series) has never been to St. Louis. I think everybody is super pumped and I think, a track like Gateway, it’s a racey place, the two different ends, so we’ll probably be able to beat and bang a little bit. I think it’ll put on a good race and hopefully there will be a packed crowd there.”
There’s talk about rotating the schedule more to bring in more new markets. Would you agree?
“It’d be really cool, being able to go to the Pacific Northwest and places like that, just being able to mix the schedule up. I think we go to some good tracks, but it’d be nice to put some variety in there.”
We’re headed into the summer stretch of the schedule. How would you describe where you and the No. 41 team are right now?
“I think we’ve shown we have speed, at times. At Martinsville we ran really well, at the road courses we’ve been fast. I think we’ve had potential at times, but we’ve definitely just struggled at the mile-and-a-halves, although Sunday at Charlotte all four SHR cars worked their way into contention at the end of the race. Before Charlotte, for whatever reason – aero or mechanical or whatever it is – we’ve just gone down the wrong path a little bit. The car’s been driveable, so I’m happy with that. It’s just going to be a process of trial and error without much practice to be able to really get to where we need to be on a consistent basis. You only get so many chances to get it right going into the weekend.”