Stewart-Haas Racing: Portland NXS Advance (Cole Custer | Riley Herbst)

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

 

• The month of May was good to Cole Custer and the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). They’ll roll into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Portland 147 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway with a ton of momentum after back-to-back third-place finishes May 13 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and on Monday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It’s the latest in their string of six consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to a fifth-place result April 1 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. After a slow start to the season, Custer has turned things around in a big way and appears poised to park his No. 00 Ford Mustang in victory lane in relatively short order. Three of his past six races resulted in top-three finishes, and he currently sits fourth in the driver standings, 74 points behind leader John Hunter Nemechek. With 14 races to go until the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs begin Sept. 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Custer feels he’s in a good position as he heads to the Portland road course for the first time in his career.

 

•  Saturday’s Portland 147 will be the second-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the 1.967-mile, 12-turn circuit, which first hosted the series a year ago. While Custer doesn’t have any experience there, he does have a considerable road-course experience in all of the NASCAR national series. He has 16 Xfinity Series starts on road courses with a best finish of third in March 2022 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. He scored 11 top-10 finishes in those 16 starts, which includes a pair of top-fives.

 

•  Custer will get some additional seat time at Portland before the green flag flies for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. On Friday, he’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 55 Pristine Auction Ford Mustang for High Point Racing in the Portland 112 ARCA Menards Series West race. It will be his first start outside of the Xfinity Series in 2023 and his first ARCA start since 2017. He’ll participate in next week’s ARCA race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, as well.

 

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

 

•  Riley Herbst hopes to finally turn his recent spate of bad luck around as he heads into Saturday’s Portland 147 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway. Monday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Herbst rebounded from an early brush with the wall that led to an unscheduled trip down pit lane and used fuel strategy to recover with a 14th-place finish. It was an improvement over the previous five races, three of which ended prematurely due to incidents not of his doing. The driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang is looking for a change of pace the next two weekends as the Xfinity Series has back-to-back races on road courses.

 

•  Saturday’s race at Portland will mark Herbst’s second Xfinity Series start at the track. In last year’s rainy inaugural race, Herbst put on a show in the opening laps, racing his way from 14th to third during a downpour. Untimely incidents then put him back in the pack, and his day ended 35 laps into the 75-lap event when he got collected in a seven-car accident. Herbst finished 10th at COTA on March 26 in the 2023 season’s only other road-course race thus far. Last year, he earned top-10 finishes in three of the six road-course races.

 

•  Like his teammate Custer, Herbst will also participate in Friday’s Portland 112 ARCA Menards Series West race. He’ll pilot the No. 5 Ford Mustang for Jerry Pitts. It will be his first ARCA appearance since his August 2021 start at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. He will also participate in next Friday’s ARCA race at Sonoma.

 

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

 

You’re heading to the first track on this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule where you’ve never turned a lap in your career. What are your expectations heading into Saturday’s race?

“This is a race weekend that I’ve really been looking forward to. I’ve never been there, but it’s a new challenge and I’m ready for it. Our road-course cars have been really good this year. I think we’ll have a shot to go there and compete for a win. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of having everything go right. You never know at Portland if it’s going to rain or what’s going to happen. Road-course races are always unpredictable. You just have to go there and make sure you’re there at the end. Hopefully we can do that and be in a good spot.”

 

With limited opportunity to practice at Portland, how do you prepare for a new track to set yourself up for success?

“I’ve definitely been leaning on Riley as I’ve been preparing for Portland. He has the experience there that I don’t. He has the latest information and, honestly, he’s been such a big help for our team as we prepare for this race. We’ve been going to the simulator, looking at notes, watching film, and so much more. All you can do is look at past races. Luckily, I’ll get some time in the ARCA car before Saturday’s race to help me learn the course a little more.”

 

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

 

After going a lap down and coming out with a top-15 finish by playing the fuel strategy game last weekend, do you think your luck is starting to turn around after a rough stretch of races?

“I hope so. These past two months have been rough for the No. 98 Monster Energy team. After such a strong start to the season, you don’t want to see that, but we also had to remember that it’s a long season. We’re still in a good spot for the playoffs and we can get back on track. We made some mistakes at Charlotte but, at the end of the day, we were able to use fuel strategy to make it not as bad of a day. Hopefully our bad-luck streak ended there and we can go back and start another top-10 streak. These races are always unpredictable but, at the end of the day, you just have to show up and be there at the end.”

 

This will be your second race at Portland, and you’ve had some success on road courses the past two seasons. What are your expectations for the weekend?

“You never know what to expect from road courses. We had a fast No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang when we came here last year. Honestly, despite the early end to our day last year, I still really like this track. It’s fun. I feel like it’s a new challenge and I’m ready for it. We’re hoping that Friday’s ARCA race will help me figure out the track a bit more and get me ready for Saturday. Hopefully, we can be there at the end and compete for the win.”

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