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

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

 

•  Event: Alsco Uniforms 302 (Round 30 of 33)

•  Date: Saturday, Oct. 14

•  Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

•  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 heads to Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway full of confidence as the Round of 8 begins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. Custer locked himself into the Round of 8 on points with his sixth-place finish Sept. 23 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. With nothing to lose last weekend on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, Custer could focus on fighting for the victory and showing the strength of the No. 00 Haas Automation team. After starting seventh, Custer ran in the top-five for a majority of the race. Pit strategy helped him restart in the top-three during the final stage. He took the lead with seven laps to go after an incident involving the leaders before eventual race-winner Sam Mayer got by him. Custer finished second, .909 of a second behind Mayer. It was Custer’s best Roval finish in three starts.

 

•  The Alsco Uniforms 302 will be Custer’s seventh Xfinity Series start at Las Vegas and his 15th overall. He has seven NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track and a lone NASCAR Truck Series start. In his six previous Xfinity Series starts at the track, he’s never finished outside the top-12, and he qualified on the pole for three straight races there prior to his return to the Xfinity Series this season – September 2018, and the March and September races in 2019 – all of which resulted in top-10 finishes. His best finish at Las Vegas is third, earned in September 2018. Custer’s Truck Series outing at Las Vegas in October 2016 resulted in a third-place finish from the third starting position driving the No. 00 entry for JR Motorsports.

 

•  In Custer’s most recent Xfinity Series start at Las Vegas in March, the 25-year-old driver showed speed straight out of the gate after posting the fastest lap times in Friday’s practice. Despite qualifying third, he was forced to start at the rear of the field as the team had to go to a backup car. He wasted no time working his way up through the field, running eighth by the end of Stage 2. But his No. 00 Ford Mustang developed handling issues in the final stage, leaving him to persevere for a 12th-place finish.

 

•  Custer and the No. 00 Haas Automation team take on a pair of intermediate tracks and a short track in the Round of 8 before heading to the mile oval at Phoenix Raceway for the Championship 4 season finale. After this weekend, the Xfinity Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Oct. 21 Contender Boats 300, then concludes the Round of 8 on Oct. 28 at the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway paperclip. Intermediate tracks have been a strength for Custer in his Xfinity Series career. During his most recent fulltime Xfinity Series campaigns in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Custer scored six of his nine race wins on intermediate tracks – Nov. 18, 2017, at Homestead, Nov. 3, 2018, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, June 29, 2019, at Chicagoland Speedway, July 12, 2019, at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Aug. 31, 2019, at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, and Oct. 5, 2019, at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.

 

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

 

•  Riley Herbst is heading home for Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302 Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 24-year-old Monster Energy driver grew up in the Entertainment Capital of the World before moving to North Carolina at the age of 17. The Herbst family name is well known in Las Vegas motorsports circle due to its competitiveness in another form of racing. His grandfather Jerry, uncles Tim and Ed, and father Troy are all Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductees as championship-winning off-road racers. While Herbst has been continuing to pursue his dream of racing fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series like his West Coast childhood heroes, he’s made appearances in the off-road racing world – in the 2021 and 2022 Baja 1000 events. In his most recent outing last November, Herbst drove the third and final leg of the race and crossed the finish line first in the Trophy Truck Spec class. A time penalty dropped his team to third place in the highly competitive class.

 

•  Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302 will mark Herbst’s ninth career Xfinity Series start at Las Vegas. He has three top-10s in his eight previous starts at the 1.5-mile oval – and eighth-place finish when the series last visited in March, and a pair of back-to-back ninth-place outings in September 2019 and February 2020. Last year at Las Vegas, Herbst posted finishes of 14th in March and 18th in September.

 

•  While Herbst seeks victory lane for the first time at Las Vegas, his No. 98 team at Stewart-Haas Racing already knows the way. With Chase Briscoe behind the wheel, the No. 98 team swept both Xfinity Series races in 2020. Briscoe started second, led a race-high 89 laps, and beat runner-up Austin Cindric by 2.874 seconds in the February race. He backed up that victory in September by qualifying on the pole, leading a race-high 164 laps, and beating runner-up Noah Gragson by 1.370 seconds.

 

•  Prior to Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Herbst will make a trip to the 1.5-mile oval Thursday for the track’s annual “Paint the Track” event in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Las Vegas native will help paint the start-finish line pink beginning at 11 a.m. local time with breast cancer survivors.

 

•  Last weekend on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, Herbst and the No. 98 Monster Energy team felt refreshed and ready to finish the year on a high note coming off the final Xfinity Series off weekend. He qualifed ninth, then ran in the top-10 for the majority of the race. In the final stage, he restarted third in his Ford Mustang thanks to a savvy pit strategy from crew chief Davin Restivo. Herbst ran in the top-four for the remainder of the race and even battled for a top-three on the final restart. Ultimately, he would finish fourth, his best in four Xfinity Series appearances on the Roval.

 

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

 

Las Vegas marks the first race of the Round of 8. The points are reset and you now sit fifth in the standings, just two points below the top-four cutline. What are your thoughts heading into these next three races, and what do you need to make it to the Championship 4?

“I mean, overall, I feel like we’ve been a Championship 4 car and capable of making that final round all year. It’s just a matter of doing what we’ve been doing and making sure we maximize everything going into these final few races. Then, we just have to make sure we’re staying consistent like we have been. I mean, some guys will try and get a little bit too much in the playoffs and get themselves in trouble. So, we just have to take what the races give us and go from there.  I think we have a team that knows how to win races and championships. Some people might doubt us going into these next few races, but I think we’re going to surprise them. We’ve had good cars this past round, but I think the best is still to come.”

 

You’ve had a strong career at Las Vegas and showed speed when the series last visited in March. How confident are you in the No. 00 Haas Automation team this weekend?

“I’m confident in our performance and this No. 00 Haas Automation team. I think we’ve made really big gains on our mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and it’s showed as the season has progressed. We were really good at Kansas until that tire carcass ruined our car, which relates to Vegas. I know the intermediate tracks weren’t our strength earlier in the year, but I think we’ve learned so much as a team throughout the season, so I’m really confident that we’ll have a fast car when we roll off the truck and onto the track this weekend. I’m proud of how far this team has come, and I hope we can maximize the weekend.”

 

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

 

You’re heading home this weekend for the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What are your thoughts heading into this weekend?

“I’m excited to go home. The two Las Vegas races are always fun for me because I’m heading back to the place where I grew up. I started chasing the NASCAR dream at the Bullring just across from Las Vegas Motor Speedway and, now, I’m going back to race there in the Xfinity Series. While the track itself has been a rollercoaster for me, I think we have been able to show speed there and on intermediates in general. Hopefully, we can show just that this weekend. Just ready to get home and put on a show for the home crowd.”

 

With only four races left in the season, you’ve mentioned that you’re going back to your original goals for the 2023 season, which were to focus on consistency and chasing a win. What would it mean to score your first Xfinity Series victory at your home track?

“It would mean a lot. Getting a win in the Xfinity Series is all that I’ve been chasing, but to get it at my home track would just make it that much more special. We have some work to do, but I think we have the speed to do it. We’ve brought some fast cars to intermediate tracks this year, so I think we can compete up front. It’s going to take a fast car, fast pit stops, and no mistakes to make it to victory lane, though. I think 2023 has thrown us a lot of bad luck, but I want to finish out this year strong. There are only four races to go. Four more chances to go for the win.”

 

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