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

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

 

•  Event: Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 (Round 28 of 33)

•  Date: Saturday, Sept. 23

•  Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth

•  Layout: 1.5-mile oval

•  Time/TV/Radio: 3:30 p.m. EDT on USA/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

 

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

 

• Cole Custer is looking to continue his strong start to his 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff run in Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang opened his playoff run last Friday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway by qualifying on the pole, winning Stage 1 of the race and finishing second in Stage 2, then continuing to be a fixture in the top-three before taking the checkered flag fourth. He arrives at Texas third in the playoff standings, 39 points above the top-eight cutoff heading in to the second of three races in the Round of 12. While Texas has proven to be a difficult track for many competitors, Custer had solid runs there during his prior stint in the Xfinity Series from 2017 to 2019. His November 2018 victory locked him into that year’s Championship 4, and his eighth-place finish in 2019 helped vault him into the Championship 4 for the second year in a row. He scored runner up finishes in the final standings both years.

 

•  Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 will mark Custer’s seventh Xfinity Series start at Texas. In his prior six visits to 1.5-mile oval, he has earned four top-fives, including his November 2018 victory, where he bested runner-up Tyler Reddick by .162 of a second. Custer earned back-to-back fifth-place finishes in his first two Texas starts in April and November 2017, then a fourth-place finish in April 2018. His eighth-place finish from the fourth starting position in the November 2019 race was his most recent in the Xfinity Series at the track.

 

•  While the Cup Series playoff contenders will be beginning their Round of 12 this weekend at Texas, Custer and his 11 other Xfinity Series playoffs drivers will be in the middle race of their Round of 12. After his fourth-place finish last weekend at Bristol, Custer is looking forward to finishing the round at two of his best tracks – the Texas oval, and the 2.28-mile, 17-turn Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. He’s finished outside the top-eight just once at Texas, and in his two prior starts on the Roval, he posted finishes of seventh in 2017 and eighth in 2018.

 

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

 

•  After racing from last to eighth in last Friday’s Food City 300 at Bristol, Riley Herbst hopes to keep the momentum rolling at Texas Motor Speedway this Saturday. He’s ready to showcase the speed of his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang at the fast, 1.5-mile oval in the Texas heat. While Herbst isn’t competing for a championship this year, he’s still focused on his main goal of the season – earning his first career Xfinity Series victory. He’s come close on several occasions this season, but bad luck seemed to find him on track and take him out of contention. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Herbst and the No. 98 team have six more chances to showcase their competitiveness as they race among the playoff drivers and hope to post what they feel is a long-overdue victory.

 

•  Saturday’s race will mark Herbst’s seventh Xfinity Series start at Texas. Of his six prior appearances, Herbst has finished in the top-12 four times with a best of fifth earned in his last start there in September 2022. Since joining SHR in 2021, he’s never finished outside the top-12 at Texas. He scored an eighth-place finish and a fifth-place finish, respectively, in last year’s two events at the track. SHR has one Xfinity Series win at Texas – Custer’s November 2018 triumph.

 

•  In last November’s race at Texas, Herbst and the No. 98 team proved to be resilient in the Texas heat. The Las Vegas native started the 200-lap race 11th and struggled with a loose-handling racecar in the initial laps. After dropping to the rear for a penalty during the day’s first round of pit stops, Herbst made quick work of his drive back toward the front. By the end of Stage 2, he was sitting 12th, then restarted ninth for the final stage. Chaos ensued on multiple occasions during the last 100 laps, and Herbst used his savvy driving skills to maneuver his way around two accidents, working his way to fourth on a lap-126 restart. He stayed in the top-five until his final scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 169 and resumed in 15th. The race went caution-free until the checkered flag and Herbst was able to work his way into the top-10 by lap 182 and ultimately to fifth by the checkered flag on lap 200. It was his seventh top-five of the season.

 

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

 

You’re heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the first time this season. You’ve been honest about how it may not be your best track on the circuit, but you’ve had some solid runs there – including your November 2018 win that advanced you to the Championship 4. What is your team doing to prepare for this middle race of the Round of 12 to help you advance?

“We’re just going over a lot of details, you know. It’s about trying to go over every single year that we’ve been to Texas and trying to understand what we need to bring to the racetrack to compete for a win. I feel like we’ve had a good mile-and-a-half package this year, especially at Kansas a few weeks ago. It’s just trying to make sure we’re good for Texas. It’s kind of an oddball in the intermediate tracks because it is so difficult, so we’re trying to go through all the details so we can get our car just right for the weekend.”

 

You’ve mentioned that Texas is unlike other intermediate tracks because of how difficult it is for a driver. What about it makes it so difficult?

“The two ends of the racetrack are just so different. It’s an intermediate track, but there is just so much variation in the track. You’ve got big bumps, which makes the handling pretty hard. Then you’ve got a daytime race in the Texas heat, which makes the track super slick. All of that, in addition to the high speeds that we run there, make it really tough to get your racecar’s setup just right. I’m still excited to head to Texas, but this is definitely the one track in the first round that we had some concern with just because it’s been all over the place for us. I trust that the No. 00 team will bring me a fast Ford Mustang like they do every week, though, so hopefully we can be up front when the checkered flag flies.”

 

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

 

The Xfinity Series only goes to Texas once a season now, but you’ve had some strong runs there in the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang in your prior two seasons. In addition, you’re coming off a top-10 run at Bristol where you started last and finished eighth. How confident are you heading into this weekend?

“I think you can’t be too confident, but there is confidence that we’re finding our stride again as a team. We’ve had some bad luck this season, but we’ve never lacked in speed. It’s just about being smart and putting yourself in the right position. I’ve learned a lot at Texas in my career, and I’m hoping that we can continue that success this weekend. Bristol was such a strong race and really showed the speed we bring to track. Not many drivers can go from last to eighth and run in the top-five at one point. I’m proud of how this No. 98 team never gave up, even in the rough times. I’m hoping we can use these final races to focus on finding victory lane, which was our original goal this season.”

 

How do you approach Texas, and what have you learned since your first start at the track in 2020?

“Texas is a beast of its own. It’s a super-fast, 1.5-mile track in the Texas heat, so you know it’s going to be a challenge. It’s a day race, too, which makes it even more challenging. With that said, it should be a lot of fun, and I’m excited to go back this weekend. I performed well there in 2022, so I’m hoping to continue that trend. The key is having a fast No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang, which we always bring, and staying out of trouble. It seems like your typical intermediate track, but it’s crazy how fast it is. We just have to keep our focus, and we can get a good finish there.”

 

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