Sunday, Feb 05 Racing: Cole Custer Homestead Advance Racing: Cole Custer Homestead Advance NK Photography Photo

Notes of Interest


●  After a pair of top-13 finishes in the season’s opening two NASCAR Cup Series events at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, 23-year-old Cole Custer and his No. 41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head south on I-95 for Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval. On Daytona’s 2.5-mile superspeedway oval two weekends ago, Custer narrowly missed a top-10 finish in his second career Daytona 500 when he came home 11th, then returned for last weekend’s race on Daytona’s 14-turn, 3.61-mile road course to rally from 24th over the final eight laps for a 13th-place finish.  


●  Custer, the reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year, heads to Homestead 11th in the driver standings with 54 points, 50 markers behind leader Denny Hamlin. After two events in his inaugural Cup Series season of 2020, Custer was 27th in the standings with 25 points, 60 behind leader Ryan Blaney. He went on to earn a berth in the NASCAR playoffs with his July 12 victory at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.


●  Sunday’s race marks Custer’s 42nd in the Cup Series and his second at Homestead. When the series last visited the South Florida oval last June, Custer and his No. 41 SHR Ford started 35th and finished 22nd, fighting tight-handling conditions most of the way.


●  Custer enjoyed great success at Homestead in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition from 2017 through 2019. He scored his first career series win in his SHR Ford when he dominated the 2017 season finale from his front-row starting position, leading 182 of 200 laps and beating runner-up Sam Hornish Jr., across the finish line by 15.405 seconds. He qualified on the pole when he returned to Homestead in 2018 and led a race-high 95 laps en route to a runner-up finish to Tyler Reddick. He qualified on the front row for the third straight time at the 2019 season finale, led 15 laps and finished second again to Reddick.    


●  In NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition, Custer has a lone Homestead start. He qualified second and finished 10th in a Haas Automation-sponsored entry for JR Motorsports in the 2016 season finale.


●  Season 1 of the new Netflix series “The Crew,” the NASCAR-themed comedy starring Kevin James as an old-school crew chief, debuted this month on the streaming channel, and Custer is one of three drivers who filmed cameo appearances for the show’s inaugural season. Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon are the others, and the cameo lineup also includes FOX NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little. There are 10 episodes now available for streaming.


●  Returning to Custer’s No. 41 Ford Mustang for SHR is team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, Haas Tooling, which was launched as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high-quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas cutting tools are sold exclusively online at and shipped directly to end users. products became available nationally last July, and the cutting tools available for purchase at have proven to be even more important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment. Haas Automation, founded by Haas in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.


Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing


You’ve had two near top-10s in the opening two races of the season. Does that give you confidence as you and the team head to Homestead this weekend?

“It’s been a solid start. I think the biggest thing for us right now is just kind of keeping that consistency. I think, especially these first five races, it’s kind of something where you want to make sure that you keep yourself in the game. You don’t want to put yourself behind and then you’re kind of fighting to get yourself back up there, so it’s trying not to put yourself in a hole right now that is probably one of the biggest things, and I think we’ve done a really good job at that. It’s just a matter of building on it week by week and I think we’ll be right in the mix of it.”


This is the first race of the season on a 1.5-mile oval, which is the most prevalent type of track on the Cup Series schedule. What are you looking to learn this weekend at Homestead?

“Yeah, I think this weekend is going to tell you a lot of where teams are on their 550 (horsepower) packages and their intermediate tracks. It should be a telltale sign for that type of racetrack. This is going to be a big weekend for a lot of teams, showing what they worked on in the offseason and what they’ve got for this year. But also, with how many road courses there are on the schedule this year, it was really important having competitiveness at the Daytona road course. Those road courses are going to be even more important this year.”


How different is it racing at Homestead when it’s not the championship weekend, anymore?

“That’s a tough question. I guess it’s still a really fun racetrack to go to for the drivers. You’re able to move around the track and run different lanes. I think from a driver’s standpoint it’s one of our favorite places to go to, just because you’re slipping and sliding around and able to do a lot as a driver. It’s a different feel, for sure, that it’s not championship weekend anymore, but you just look at it as another weekend now and you try to go there and get as many points as you can and set yourself up for the rest of the season.”


You were 22nd in your first Cup Series race at Homestead last year. What do you need to do to be better there this year?

“It’s been so long since we’ve been to Homestead. I think we’ve grown so much since then, so I don’t know if it’s even comparable, honestly. For us, it’s just going to be a matter of having a car that you can drive into the corner deep and carry a lot of throttle. That’s pretty much what the 550 package is. At Homestead, you will have to worry more about your long-run speed just because the tires do wear out a lot, but being able to be really confident with your car and move it around the track on restarts will be a huge deal.”


What is the trick to running the high line at Homestead?

“I think the guys that you see who are really good at it, they’re able to enter right on the wall and be as close to it as humanly possible. The closer you get to it, the more grip you have. There is also risk with that, so it’s a matter of balancing the risk versus reward and knowing what time to do it and what time to push it. I think that’s one of the big parts of it, just managing the risk.”


How do you know how close you need to get to the wall?

“I guess the biggest thing is that it’s a combination of using your eyes for how close you are to the wall, and then you have to use your feel for how the air is compacting it into the wall and how much of a feel you have of how close you are to it. Your eyes will only get you to a certain point. You kind of have to use your feel to kind of get you all the way there.”


People seem to be intrigued by your acting debut in the Netflix series “The Crew.” The big question would be, how did it come about?

“It was something NASCAR kind of reached out about. If I wanted to come and be a part of it, and I definitely wanted to because whenever it’s Kevin James, I mean, you want to be a part of that experience and see what it’s going to be like. I would not give myself a good grade. I don’t know if I’m going to be called back, but I did my lines and I did my best, so I can work on it for next time, maybe. But it was fun. Just being around somebody like that, I mean, someone with a totally different profession like Kevin James. A lot of the stuff he was doing was off-script, just thinking off the top of his head, and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe how fast he could think and make up different lines and stuff like that.”




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