Notes of Interest
● It’s time to tackle the unpredictability of superspeedway racing once again for Cole Custer and the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Sunday’s YellaWood 500.
● Back with Custer and the No. 41 SHR Ford team for the season’s fifth of six appearances as primary partner is Autodesk Fusion 360, which kicked off its fourth season with the 23-year-old driver and SHR in June on the Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway road course and made its fourth appearance two weekends ago on the high-banked, half-mile concrete oval at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The Sonoma weekend was a hometown race for San Francisco-based Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), a leader in software applications for the engineering, manufacturing, construction, architecture, media and entertainment industries.
● Sunday’s 500-mile race at Talladega will be Custer’s milestone 70th Cup Series start and his fourth on the 2.66-mile oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 10th-place finish there in April was the best of his first three Cup Series visits and was the first of his two top-10 finishes earned so far this season. He scored his second top-10 three weeks later on the concrete mile oval at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
● The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, had promising runs in both of last year’s Cup Series events at Talladega. In the spring race, he was set to restart fifth for the green-white-checkered finish, but his Mustang began to stumble from a lack of fuel, sending him to pit road for a splash-and-go. He finished 22nd. In the fall race, he was able to drive to the front on multiple occasions, but while running fifth just past the race’s halfway point, he was collected in a multicar incident that ended his day.
● Custer has three Talladega appearances in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition in the No. 00 SHR Ford with a best finish of ninth in the 2018 race, and best starts of 12th in the 2018 and 2019 races.
● Custer qualified the No. 00 JR Motorsports entry on the pole for the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega, but saw that bid come to an early end after an accident just past the halfway point.
● After last Sunday’s night’s 29th-place finish on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval, Custer arrives at Talladega 28th in the driver standings.
● Joining Autodesk on the No. 41 Ford Mustang 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, its partner Wow Wow Classic Waffles, and Feeding America®, the largest hunger relief organization in the United States with a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, are asking fans to do their part in helping to end hunger in America by texting HUNGER to 50555 to make a $5 donation to Feeding America, by visiting the Feeding America donation page on Facebook, or the donation page via the Feeding America website. Each $1 donated helps provide at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks.
Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
You drove to a top-10 finish in your last visit to Talladega in April and you finished just one spot out of the top-10 in the Daytona 500 at Talladega’s sister track in February. Do you feel you can carry that momentum into this weekend?
“Those were solid races that we needed at the time, and I think if a thing or two would’ve gone our way at the end of those races, we would’ve ended up with even better finishes. The superspeedways have been one of our strong suits at SHR this year and I’m confident our HaasTooling.com Ford guys are bringing us a fast Mustang for this race. These are races where you can’t control a whole lot and you have to hope for the best, especially during the playoffs when guys are going all out for stage points and then at the end of the race. You have to race your race the best you can to put yourself in a good position. It can be a pretty stressful race, but I guess all of the races can be stressful if you let them.”
Your first two Cup Series races at Talladega were potentially strong runs during your Rookie of the Year campaign in 2020. Talk about that and how you seemed to get comfortable there from the get-go.
“We had strong runs and we did it without any practice or qualifying, so that was definitely an adventure. Having no practice was definitely a concern because you want as much practice as you can get to just feel things out and see what’s working and what’s not working. But we figured it out pretty quickly in the race, as it turned out. We had fast Ford Mustangs both times there last year. I think we had top-five cars at both races, and we were able to race our way to the front both times. But we ran out of fuel at the end of the June race, and ended up getting caught up in a big wreck a little past halfway in the October race. I’m optimistic we’ll bring a fast HaasTooling.com Mustang again this weekend.”