Sunday, Jan 29

Dixie Vodka Racing: Cole Custer Martinsville Advance

Notes of Interest


● Cole Custer and the No. 41 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) welcome back Dixie Vodka for the fourth and final time this season as primary partner when the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the penultimate event of 2021, Sunday’s Xfinity 500. And for the third time this season, Custer and the No. 41 Ford team are introducing a delicious, new product offering – Dixie Vodka Peach Cocktail – as well as details of the exciting Dixie Vodka Bar Car Sweepstakes. Dixie Vodka Peach Cocktail features a tasty blend of luscious peach with a touch of carbonation and award-winning Dixie Vodka. Click here to order yours today!


● Meanwhile, the Dixie Vodka Bar Car Sweepstakes features a once-in-a-lifetime prize for one lucky fan – an actual 2021 SHR Ford Mustang racecar outfitted with a grill and cooler. SHR and Dixie Vodka are teaming up for this unique opportunity. Starting the week after the Nov. 7 Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway and running through Dec. 31, fans (who must be at least 21 years of age) simply need to visit the Dixie Vodka Bar Car Sweepstakes website to enter. No purchase necessary. The Dixie Vodka Bar Car will be delivered to the winner with a set of tickets to the 2022 Daytona 500.


● Sunday’s 500-lap race around the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped Martinsville oval will be Custer’s 74th Cup Series start and his fourth at Martinsville. The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, had a best Martinsville finish of 13th last October before returning this past April and recording an 18th-place finish.


● Custer, last year’s Cup Series Rookie of the Year, had solid runs among his six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville from 2014 through 2016. He qualified on the pole and led a race-high 96 of 200 laps before finishing fourth in the October 2015 race, when he drove the No. 00 JR Motorsports entry. His next-best Martinsville Truck Series finish of seventh came in the October 2016 race, his most recent, when he drove the JR Motorsports racetruck to a seventh-place finish after qualifying third and leading 17 laps. He drove to another front-row qualifying spot alongside polesitter and race-winner Joey Logano in the March 2015 Truck Series race at Martinsville, leading two laps of the race before finishing 16th in the JR Motorsports racetruck. 


● After recording his 18th-place finish last Sunday on the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Custer arrives at Martinsville 27th in the driver standings.


● Launched in 2014 and based in Charleston, South Carolina, Dixie Vodka was established with the simple mission of creating an all-American premium craft vodka that represents the best of Southern flavor, craftsmanship and hospitality. With six signature flavors – including its flagship Southern Original, Black Pepper, Citrus, Mint, Peach and Wildflower Honey – Dixie Vodka partners with local farmers across the South to infuse regionally cherished ingredients into its award-winning products, each of which is six-times distilled from American corn. In 2020, Dixie Vodka was ranked the ninth-fastest growing spirits brand in the United States by the Beverage Information Group and remains the largest premium craft vodka produced in the Southeast. In partnership with the Southern-raised sport that transcends regional boundaries, Dixie Vodka is proud to serve as the Official Vodka of NASCAR, the title sponsor of the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the Official Vodka of Stewart-Haas Racing. Dixie Vodka donates at least 1% of all profits through its 1% for the Planet program, a commitment to supporting non-profits that work to protect the future of the planet. A core brand within the Grain & Barrel Spirits portfolio – an innovation-driven beverage platform that develops and scales craft spirits brands led by founder Matti Anttila – Dixie Vodka can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and on shelves in more than 30 states.


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


With Martinsville being one of the iconic short tracks in NASCAR, what are your thoughts about the significance of doing well there?

“Martinsville is one every single driver wants to win because I think the driver can make a pretty big difference at Martinsville. You get the grandfather clock, all the history about the place, every single driver wants to go there and get that trophy. It’s just one of those tracks I would call one of the crown jewel races because it’s one you want to check off your list.”


What would it mean to you to win one of those grandfather clock trophies?

“I’d have to figure out somewhere to put it. (Laughs.) I’d probably put it somewhere in my kitchen, or in the middle of the living room or something, because it would be probably the biggest and best trophy I’d ever gotten. That’s one every single person wants. It’s so unique, it means so much in our community in NASCAR to win that trophy. At the end of that race, everybody wants to get that clock and they’re going to beat and bang for it.”


You made your first NASCAR starts back in 2014 at Martinsville in the Truck Series. Take us back to that experience.

“I remember my first two Truck races at Martinsville. It was a deal where we were really fast, but I just couldn’t figure out how to race there and keep my truck in one piece until the end of the race. You’re racing in such tight quarters and everybody’s beating and banging, it’s hard to know when you’re supposed to be aggressive and when you’re not supposed to be since you’re supposed to be taking care of your car. It was one of those things where I had to figure out the pace of the race.”


What’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to about racing there this weekend?

“For me, it’s just the challenge of it. It’s one of those tracks where, when you’re out there by yourself, you have to finesse your car around the track and it takes a lot of rhythm. And once you get out there with 39 other cars, it becomes a physical race. So it’s a matter of balancing those two things of finesse and beating and banging, it’s one of the toughest tracks on the schedule.”


People say it takes a long time to master it. Do you feel like you’re mastering it?

“I would not say I’ve mastered Martinsville, yet. I don’t know if you ever master Martinsville. It’s a place that is always going to challenge you. Something different is going to always happen in the race, something is always going to get thrown at you, like somebody messing your race up or something like that. It’s just a constant battle of trying to get your car to handle right and then to try and navigate through 39 other cars.”


You talk about navigating – what does that mean at a place like Martinsville?

“They call it the paperclip for a reason. It’s one of those tracks where you have to try and go down this long straightaway and then come to a stop, pretty much, in the corner, and how you manage your brakes and how you manage the throttle – everything about it is just difficult. And you have to finesse the car around the corners. It’s one of those tracks that’s not easy for a driver to figure out and try and get a rhythm.”


When you and the team are at the shop talking about what you and the car need for race day, how much input do you have?

“It’s a balance. When you look at it, we have such smart people working on the cars at SHR and Ford, I don’t want to step on any toes, really, by telling them what I think is right because they know way better than I do. (Laughs.) It’s one of those things that, as a driver, you have to know what kind of feel that you want and know that feel, so you tell them, ‘This is what I’m thinking going into the weekend, this is the feel that I’m looking for, and maybe we can work in this direction.’ But at the end of the day, the engineers and the crew chiefs have a way better idea of what to do than I do. I try and trust the people with the big degrees to make those decisions.”





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