Cole Custer Notes of Interest

  • Cole Custer, the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, returns to the scene of his thrilling, title-winning performance during last year’s season finale when he takes to the mile oval at Phoenix Raceway for Saturday’s Call 811.com Every Dig. Every Time. 200. The driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse won not only his first career Xfinity Series championship in that Championship 4 finale Nov. 4, but his first Xfinity Series race at Phoenix, and it came in spectacular, four-wide fashion during the closing laps. During his return this weekend to the desert track, the reigning Xfinity Series champion looks to not only continue his title defense, but to make it back-to-back victories at Phoenix. He’s coming off last Saturday’s runner-up finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after earning his first pole of the young season on Friday. It was his fourth Xfinity Series pole at Las Vegas and the 19th of his career. He is now 12th among all-time Xfinity Series pole winners and just two poles behind 11th-place Denny Hamlin, who has 21. Custer earned six poles each in 2018, 2019, and 2023, three of his last four fulltime Xfinity Series seasons.
  • Saturday’s Call 811.com Every Dig. Every Time. 200 will mark Custer’s ninth Xfinity Series start at Phoenix. In his previous eight starts, he finished outside the top-12 just once, and he’s completed all 1,602 possible laps he’s run at Phoenix in his career. Prior to his championship-winning performance last November, Custer scored five consecutive top-10 finishes at Phoenix, culminating with his runner-up finish in the November 2019 Phoenix race. Custer has 12 NASCAR starts outside of the Xfinity Series at Phoenix – six in the Cup Series with a best finish of ninth in March 2020, three in the Truck Series with a best finish of third in November 2014, and three in the K&N Pro Series West punctuated by his victory from the pole in March 2014, when he led a race-high 62 of 80 laps. He earned finishes of sixth and third in the other two, which came in November 2013 and 2014, respectively.
  • Custer is following up his meeting with UFC fighter Merab Dvalishvili last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by attending Thursday night’s Arizona Coyotes National Hockey League game in Tempe and Friday morning’s Professional Bowling Association (PBA) Invitational at Phoenix Raceway. These are the latest of Custer’s sports crossover events. Since he was crowned the 2023 Xfinity Series champion at Phoenix Raceway last November, he’s attended Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes NHL games, and a New Orleans Saints National Football League game to promote the Xfinity Series and his championship.

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

  • Riley Herbst will feel right at home at the desert-mile oval at Phoenix Raceway during Saturday’s Call 811.com Every Dig. Every Time. 200, the fourth race of the 2024 season. The No. 98 Monster Energy driver was born and raised just up the road in Las Vegas. As he continues to make a name for himself by taking his family name from the iconic off-road events of the Desert Southwest to the asphalt tracks of NASCAR, he will always embrace his desert roots. Herbst began racing go-karts on the West Coast at age 5 and hasn’t slowed down since. He moved to North Carolina at 17 and began working his way up to the NASCAR ranks. His grandfather Jerry, his dad Troy, and his uncles Tim and Ed, are all Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductees as a result of their numerous championship-winning Trophy Truck campaigns. While Herbst still returns to his family roots for the Baja 1000 each November, his ultimate dream is to make it to the NASCAR Cup Series fulltime. Herbst added his name to the Xfinity Series winners list at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October to establish himself as a possible title contender in 2024. Last year, FOX aired a feature story chronicling the Herbst family motorsports legacy, and the third-generation racer’s story about breaking away from his the off-road roots. Watch the story HERE.
  • Saturday’s race will mark Herbst’s 10th career Xfinity Series start at Phoenix, which has proven to be one of his better tracks. After an early race accident in his series debut there in November 2019, he finished 11th or better in eight of his nine eight Phoenix outings, highlighted by fourth-place finishes in both the March and November 2021 events, and both the March and November 2023 events. Outside the Xfinity Series at Phoenix, Herbst finished 10th in his lone NASCAR K&N Pro Series West start at the track in November 2019, and 15th in his lone NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start there in November 2018.
  • Herbst has had a strong start to the 2024 season despite some bad luck in the first few races. He looked to be on his way to victory lane in the season opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway before cautions and fuel mileage issues forced him to settle for finishes of sixth and 15th, respectively. Last weekend, in his return to his hometown, Herbst looked to be competitive enough to make it back-to-back wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He worked his way up to second and competed for the lead during the final stage, but tedious winds and an ill-handling racecar dropped Herbst back in the pack. He was able to recover for a fifth-place result, his first top-five of 2024.

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse

You’re headed back to the place where you won it all in November. Is there an extra boost of confidence after that four-wide pass for the lead at Phoenix that earned your first Xfinity Series championship?

“There’s always a boost of confidence coming into this first race at Phoenix as a champion. I still don’t know how I made it through that pass in November, but obviously the guys gave me a fast Ford Mustang that I was able to do that with. With all that said, it’s still a new season and another race. Anything can happen, and you have to make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. We’re always working to be better, no matter what. I’m confident in my No. 00 Haas Automation team, though. I think we’ve got a good shot this weekend.”

Is there any extra pressure heading into Phoenix after winning that race and the championship last November, especially knowing that you will return to this track for this year’s Championship 4 finale in November, quite possibly in position to defend your 2023 title?

“You definitely put a little more emphasis on Phoenix when you go to the first race of the year there, mostly because you know how big this race will be when we return in November. It’s a race that means a lot later in the year, and you never know if you’ll be one of the ones racing for a championship or not. I got the chance to last year and we made the most of it. We didn’t have a great race in March but brought a rocket ship in November. You’re always going to bring the best you’ve got to a race, but there might be a little more pressure to get it right this time so you can be as perfect as possible later on. Hopefully we get a chance to race for the title there again in November.”

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse

We’re heading back to one of your better tracks on the circuit, which is very similar to the short tracks that you grew up on. What is it about Phoenix that suits your driving style?

“I think it’s just that, it drives a lot like a short track, which most of the drivers in the garage grew up racing on. We’re just more comfortable with this kind of racing. With that said, I still think there are ways that the No. 98 Monster Energy team can improve at Phoenix. We’ve been strong there with top-10 finishes, but we just need a little bit more. Luckily we can look at notes from past years and work with my teammate, who won the race there in November. I’m pumped to head back to Phoenix and see what we’ve got after the strong start to the season.”

Phoenix is such a unique racetrack and you have a strong history there. How do you tackle it as a driver?

“I’m excited to get back to Phoenix. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, along with Richmond and Bristol. The track itself is one of the more unique tracks because of how different each end of the track is. You have to approach both ends of the track differently. There are a lot of opportunities to show a lot of speed and get an advantage. We talk about the dogleg a lot there, so you see a lot of guys go down there to pass and find speed. Phoenix is a fun race, though, for the drivers. I’m hoping to continue that trend, and we can keep the top-five streak we started in Las Vegas alive.”

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