Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Cole Custer and Riley Herbst answered questions from the media before today’s practice and qualifying session at Darlington Raceway.

COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse – IT’S 10 YEARS SINCE YOUR FIRST WIN WITH THE TEAM WHEN YOU WERE IN THE TRUCK SERIES. WHAT DOES SHR MEAN TO YOU? “The truck series win wasn’t with SHR, but starting with the Xfinity Series and going from there and seeing what that’s built into since we started, I mean, it was a lot of work when the Xfinity team started and how much went into that, and seeing it get a championship last year was really rewarding. So, hopefully we can keep it going here. I think we really hit our stride in Dover and felt like we had a really fast car that could compete for a win. The rain had a little bit to do with stuff at Dover, but hopefully we can kind of keep that momentum rolling here and have a shot of winning this thing because Darlington is one of the coolest places you can ever win at. Having a Johnny Sauter throwback this weekend also would be really cool, so hopefully we can give him a good run.”

IS THERE ANY FRUSTRATION WITH NOT YET WINNING OR ARE YOU CONFIDENT WITH WHERE YOU’RE AT RIGHT NOW? “I think any driver or team expects to win. We’re obviously a little bit frustrated that we haven’t won yet, but at the end of the day I think we’re really good as a group at just continuing to grind it out and communicating how to get our cars that little bit better. I think it showed last weekend at Dover, so I know we have a great group around us and we just have to keep it rolling. If you keep knocking on the door, it will happen, so we just have to keep doing what we do. We’ve had fast cars. We just have to keep that consistency going.”

IT TOOK UNTIL PORTLAND LAST YEAR TO START YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP RUN. WHAT DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR THAT WILL HELP FOR THE REST OF 2024? “I think just being patient. It doesn’t happen overnight. For whatever reason, we ended the season so strong last year and this year there was a little bit of a rule change in the Xfinity Series, so I think maybe just adapting to that and getting everything back going how we were, we just needed a little bit of that. I think at the end of the day what we learned last year was you just have to be patient. Eventually, if you keep working on it and keep finding the things not to do and then you find things that you need to do it will come to you eventually with how you need to get the cars. From there, you just try and execute. When you bring fast cars to the racetrack it makes things so much easier, but you just have to communicate to get those cars where you need them.”

DO YOU LIKE DARLINGTON? IS IT INTIMIDATING? “I think for me it’s usually a little bit cautious. I’ve been here, actually last year in the second race I hit the wall on lap one, so it’s definitely a place the first lap or two you just try to get your feet wet and see what the track has in store for you this weekend. It’s one of those places where you just have to know when to be aggressive and when to just take what it gives you because the first half of the race you don’t want to get yourself in trouble and then you don’t have anything for the second half. You have to be smart around here, but it’s always such a challenge. There are so many different things you can do. You have to run up against the wall with it being so slick out and it’s just one of those places you take a lot of pride in running good here.”

DO YOU LIKE IT? “Yeah, I’d say I’ve always liked it. I feel like I’ve had some pretty good races here and it’s just a place you always look forward to coming to because it is such a challenge and when you do run well here it’s really rewarding.”

WHAT’S MORE INTIMIDATING, GOING OFF IN TURN ONE AT DARLINGTON OR HITTING THAT FIRST TEE SHOT IN FRONT OF A CROWD? “Man, it’s about equal almost, I think. Coming here and knowing you have to be up against the wall, but then also going there and hopefully you don’t shank it off into the woods into somebody’s head is a little bit intimidating when you’ve never done it before. I would say those two things are neck-and-neck.”

YOU HAVE A WIN HERE WHEN DENNY HAMLIN GOT DISQUALIFIED IN 2019. HOW DO YOU PROCESS THAT? “I don’t know if I go boasting around that I’ve won at Darlington, but I take a little pride in it because it is a tough place to run and we’ve always run pretty good here. To finish second to Denny is something to be proud of here, but obviously I think it’ll be way more sweeter if you actually cross the finish line first. I’ve been chasing that here ever since then and I think whenever that happens, it’ll mean that much more.”

RILEY HERBST, No. 98 Terrible Herbst Ford Mustang Dark Horse – “I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a really cool family and to honor the Terrible Herbst name and the Terrible Herbst roots here at Darlington is only right and to have that bright red car is pretty cool and I’m honored to do so.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DARLINGTON THIS WEEKEND? “It should be good. I’m excited to be back in the Xfinity car after the Cup car last weekend. I feel like we have some good tracks coming up, this and Charlotte, so I’m excited for what’s in store and hopefully we get to practice without any weather, but we’ll see how that goes.”

HOW WAS YOUR CUP EXPERIENCE LAST WEEK AND HOW MANY LEFT DO YOU HAVE? “I have two more. I thought from 2500 feet not very good with a 35th-place finish. My goal on Monday was to run all the laps and learn as much as I can and be there at the end and I felt like we accomplished those goals. It’s really hard. Obviously, Cup is the premier series and I’m grateful I got to do it. Hopefully, the next time out will be a little bit better than it was at Kansas and we keep learning and progressing.”

WILL ALL OF YOUR STARTS BE WITH RICK WARE RACING? “Yes. I’ve got two more. The next one is Nashville and I don’t know after that, but Nashville is the next one.”

THEY’RE SHR-PREPARED CARS? “It’s a Rick Ware car with some SHR personnel, but a majority of it is Rick Ware Racing.”

ARE YOU FEELING THE SAME DEFICIENCY ON THE XFINITY SIDE AS THE CUP SIDE? “I don’t think so. I think at Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity program I think us and the 00 have the fastest cars, or it’s a coin flip between who is fastest each week. I think our Xfinity program is really figured out and it’s switched on right now. It’s my job to capitalize on it. The Cup car, it’s not fair for me to come back and say the Fords are lacking here, here and here is meaning the driver is lacking here, here and here and just experience, so I’m looking forward to the next start and hopefully it’s better than Kansas.”

HOW DO YOU APPROACH DARLINGTON? “I think Darlington is super interesting. When people bring up Darlington I bring up COVID when I was a really green race car driver and we didn’t get any testing or practice. We had a random start and I started sixth on the outside of Justin Allgaier for my first laps around Darlington, so that’s a special memory for me and it’s extremely challenging with both ends being very, very different and the patch seems to lose grip every time we come here from the spring to the fall and the fall to spring, so I’m excited to see what it holds in practice, if we get to practice, which I think we’ll be able to. I feel like we’ll have a pretty fast car like we’ve had all year and hopefully capitalize on that.”

WHAT ABOUT THE LENGTH OF THE TRACKS EACH WEEK? “I don’t know if the track length is truly an adjustment for us, but this truly is one of the shortest Xfinity races we do with only 200 miles, so that’s probably the biggest adjustment for us race car drivers is the stages are shorter and the race length is shorter, so we have to be about it a little bit more aggressively and put it on the fence a little bit sooner.”

AS YOU LOOK AT YOUR CAREER IS IT HARD TO NOT LOOK BEHIND AND SEE SOME OF THESE YOUNGER KIDS DOING WELL? “I think this is a pivotal season for my career, honestly. These next few races are gonna be big. There are a lot of cool opportunities and big things possibly for my future, but that kind of falls back on my shoulders to perform. I think things are happening a lot sooner this year than in year’s past, so it’s gonna kind of be a sprint to the summertime and I think things are gonna start to happen a lot sooner than people anticipate.”

HOW DOES THAT NOT IMPACT WHAT YOU DO OR DON’T DO IN A CAR? “I think it’s just kind of an internal thing on the 98 team to kind of buckle down and get going because all of us are kind of looking around and seeing some writing on the walls for the inside the outside, so we want to perform the best we can and put ourselves in a good position. I know people are watching the 98 team, so hopefully we can excel when the eyes are on us.”

Ford Performance PR