● Coming off their second top-10 finish of the season, Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to one of the more highly anticipated stops on the NASCAR Cup Series tour for Sunday’s EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The 20-turn, 3.426-mile road course that has been home to Formula One’s United States Grand Prix since 2012 is hosting all three NASCAR national touring series for the first time this weekend.
● Sunday’s 68-lap, 231-mile race marks Custer’s 53rd career Cup Series start and his fourth on a road course. He had an impressive ninth-place run on the Roval circuit at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway last October is best among his three previous points-paying road-course starts in the Cup Series. In February, the reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year rallied for a 13th-place finish on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course after dropping back as far as 24th while avoiding a multicar accident in the closing laps. In this year’s non-points Busch Clash, Custer drove deep into the top-10 on multiple occasions, but he fell three laps off the pace late when he could not refire his Mustang after serving a self-imposed stop-and-go penalty for missing the backstraight chicane. He finished 20th.
● In his 11 road-course outings in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2017 through 2019, Custer finished outside the top-10 just once with a best result of fourth in the 2018 race at Road America.
● Custer also has top-10s in all three of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series outings on road courses, all three occurring at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. His best was his most recent, a second-place run from the pole with a race-high 39 laps led in the No. 00 JR Motorsports entry in 2016. He also made three starts apiece on the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition, with best finishes of third in the 2016 East Series race at Watkins Glen after having qualified on the pole there the previous year, and fourth in the 2019 West Series race at Sonoma.
● In an effort to maximize track time during the inaugural NASCAR weekend at Circuit of the Americas, Custer will pilot the No. 17 Ford Mustang for SS Green Light Racing/Rick Ware Racing in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. It will be the native of Ladera Ranch, California’s first Xfinity Series appearance since the 2019 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he piloted the No. 00 SHR Ford to a runner-up finish for the second consecutive race.
● After last Sunday’s 10th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Custer arrives at Circuit of the Americas 25th in the Cup Series standings, 355 points behind leader Denny Hamlin, and 71 points behind the 16th and final playoff position.
● Sunday’s race is the second of a ground-breaking seven NASCAR Cup Series races to be held on road courses in 2021. From 1988 to 2017, there were only two road courses on the schedule – Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The Charlotte Roval was added in 2018, giving the series three road-course venues. The initial 2021 schedule doubled that tally, with Circuit of the Americas, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course all being added. And when COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the series’ stop this year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the Daytona road course was put in its place.
● 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 HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users. HaasTooling.com products became available nationally last July, and the cutting tools available for purchase at HaasTooling.com 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.
● SHR revealed last month that Code 3 Associates returns to the No. 41 Ford Mustang for the July 11 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Code 3 Associates has been a hero to animals for more than 30 years. If disaster strikes, Code 3 will deploy its Animal Rescue Team to help in emergencies like hurricanes, fires and floods. Fans have the opportunity to have their name featured on the No. 41 SHR Ford and help Code 3 continue its rescue efforts by simply visiting Code3.cc/Cole41 and making a $41 donation.