Wednesday, Mar 22

Ford Performance NASCAR: Cole Custer Media Availability Transcript Las Vegas

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 Ford Mustang, is coming off a victory in last Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway and an 11th-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series event the following day.  Custer was part of a Ford Performance media conference call earlier today and talked about how his season has started.


COLE CUSTER, No. 41 Ford Mustang – HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET THAT XFINITY WIN LAST WEEK IN CALIFORNIA?  “It’s just huge to go back to the Xfinity Series and get a win.  All of those guys, Bobby Dotter, I mean, to be in victory lane.  I know Bobby has been doing it for a really long time, so it was cool to see him back in victory lane, but also for our sponsor, Production Alliance Group.  It was their race, the Production Alliance Group 300, and I think he’s been talking for about six months about winning his own race, so it was really cool to make that happen.  And that being a home race race, I mean it was as good as you can get.”


HOW ARE YOU FEELING?  WHAT DOES A WIN DO TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY?  “Obviously, it adds a little bit of confidence.  You still know what you’re doing in some aspect, but at the same time you’ve just got to keep focusing on what’s coming next.  Obviously, with this Next Gen car it’s pretty much a new experience every single weekend.  We don’t know exactly what to expect, so you’ve kind of got to stay on your game and make sure you’re not getting too cocky, I guess you would say.  I think it’s definitely every single type of racetrack you have to make sure you’re on your game and adapting as fast as you can.”


HOW ARE YOU LIKING OR NOT LIKING THE NEW CAR, AND IT LOOKED LIKE A LOT OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO RUN IN THE TOP 10 THAT DON’T NORMALLY RUN THERE.  IS THE CAR DOING THAT?  “I think from my experience with the car they’ve done a solid job.  Obviously, the bigger mile-and-a-half tracks where a lot of aerodynamics come into play it’s gonna be very interesting.  You probably don’t have the side force that you want in the car to really have the confidence that you want, but it makes it very interesting as the driver to kind of find that limit and try not to go over because I think we saw a lot of guys do that last weekend.  And then I think when you see a lot of people that aren’t usually in the top 10 from in the past, it’s gonna be a crazy year.  A lot of teams, there’s the stakes, whether it’s on pit road or mechanical failures or what happens there are things going on, and then also I think it is a little bit more of an even playing field just because nobody has figured out this car completely yet.  It’s anybody’s game right now.”


WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST A PLAN COULD BE FOR GETTING CARS BACK TO PIT ROAD IF YOU HAVE A FLAT?  “Honestly, I don’t know exactly.  Obviously, they have tow trucks and stuff right now, but I’m kind of trusting NASCAR on that one.  There have been rumors about a rule change, but I haven’t heard anything for sure.  We’ll see.  I think obviously we’d like to drive the car back if we have a flat, so we’ll see what happens.”


HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING IN THE LAST YEAR WITH GAMBLING OPENING UP AND LAS VEGAS THIS WEEKEND?  DO YOU NOTICE IF THERE’S MORE INTEREST IN THE SPORT AS FAR AS MORE PEOPLE GAMBLING ON IT?  “I wouldn’t say I call myself a huge gambler.  I’ll go to Vegas and play a little bit of Blackjack, but that’s about it.  I think you do hear from time to time that it’s definitely been good for the sport on having more interest.  I think having people having that driver that they’re pulling for and that they put a little bit of money on at times, I do think it helps things.  It’s been interesting, but I wouldn’t say I’m a big gambler, so I can’t tell you for sure.”


CAN YOU GAUGE WHERE SHR IS NOW COMPARED TO A YEAR AGO?  “I think right now we’ve done a really solid job.  We’ve been competitive at every single race so far.  Are we where we want to be?  Are we leading a bunch of laps and up front?  I think we still have a little bit of room to grow, but the guys have done a great job over the offseason working hard on this car and this is our year to rebound.  We’re working as hard as we can to try and get our cars back up front, but it’s been solid so far.  I think we have cars that are driving well and we have stuff that we can build on for the rest of the year.”


ANY IDEA ON HOW THE CAR IS GOING TO REACT ON THE SURFACES OF VEGAS AND ATLANTA THE NEXT TWO WEEKS BECAUSE THEY’RE TOTALLY DIFFERENT?  “You look at Vegas this weekend and it’s gonna be very interesting with the bumps in one and two.  At Fontana, people struggled a lot with that bump in three and four and it’s gonna be interesting to see what teams push it more than others on aggressive setups and stuff like that and what drivers push it more because it’s gonna be edgy through those bumps.  I think that’s no doubt and then you look at Phoenix, I think this car is a really good short track car.  I think it’ll put on a really good race.  I think we’ve got some really interesting tracks coming up for sure.”


THERE SEEMED TO BE A LOT OF DRIVER ENTHUSIASM LAST WEEK AT FONTANA.  DO YOU THINK THAT WILL CARRYOVER TO VEGAS?  “I think so, for sure.  The cars are just on edge.  It’s something that I think we haven’t seen in a few years where guys are spinning out in practice and qualifying.  It’s really interesting to see what guys are pushing it to the max.  In the Cup Series you’ve got to live on that edge.  If you holding anything back, you’re not gonna run good, so it’s definitely interesting to see which guys are pushing it more than others.”


ATLANTA IS COMING UP – A SUPER HIGH-BANK 1.5-MILE.  WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?  “It’s gonna be interesting.  Like I said, these cars are on edge so going to those high speed mile-and-a-halves it’s gonna be interesting to see which guys are pushing it more than others and which crew chiefs and teams are pushing it more than others in the setup.  It’s definitely gonna be interesting because it’s a new week.  Every single week you don’t know what to expect, so it’s gonna be a very interesting few weeks to see how these cars handle on these mile-and-a-halves.”


DO YOU EXPECT THE RACING TO BE ANY DIFFERENT AT PHOENIX NEXT WEEK THAN WE SAW WITH THE GEN 6 CAR IN NOVEMBER?  “Honestly, I think it will be similar.  I think it’s a car that should perform pretty well on the short tracks.  Phoenix, obviously you have a little bit of aero effects going there, so it’ll be a little more interesting to see how the dirty air works and stuff like that, but, overall, I think it’ll be pretty similar to what it has been in the past.  I think one thing that people are a little bit questionable about is the dogleg, how the car is gonna handle through there and if you’re going to be using the apron at all.  As we’ve seen at these other tracks they don’t like going over bumps that well.”


HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE ABLE TO TAKE NEXT WEEKEND WHEN YOU GO BACK THERE IN THE FALL?  “You’ll definitely be able to take some things.  Obviously, we’ve had a test there already, so we have an idea of what we’re looking for.  Like you said, this car and what we’re thinking about will change a lot by the time November comes around, but you’ll still have that baseline of the first Phoenix race and that’s where the championship happens, so there will still be a lot of emphasis on it.”


COMING OFF A SOLID CUP RUN AT FONTANA, HOW DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM BALANCED THE GOOD FEELING OF THAT WITH ALL YOU STILL HAVE TO LEARN WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR?  “You’ve just got to take it one week at a time.  You kind of have to live in the moment, I guess.  Our team did a great job in Fontana.  Our pit crew was awesome and you just have to keep building on that.  Obviously, things are gonna change week to week and you have to use your resources and teammates and everything around you to try and understand this car better, but I think we’re off to a good start and we’ve got to just keep building on it.”


HOW MUCH DIFFERENTLY DO YOU EXPECT TO DRIVE VEGAS FROM YEARS PAST AND IS THE EXTRA BANKING CRITICAL FOR SETUP THIS WEEKEND?  “You’re gonna change your setup around a little bit, but I think the biggest thing, at least of us, is how you’re going to navigate the bumps in one and two.  They’re some of the biggest bumps that we have on the schedule.  At Fontana, we saw the problems people had over the bumps in three and four, so it’s gonna be a matter of how far you can push it through those bumps and how your car is handling through that.”


HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW BOBBY DOTTER AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO SEE HIM IN VICTORY LANE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS CAREER AS AN OWNER?  “I’ve seen Bobby around the garage since I was running Xfinity and kind of got to know him a little bit last year. It’s definitely really cool.  You won’t see anyone more hard-working and has been around this sport for a long time, so it was really awesome to get those guys in victory lane and seeing all of their faces lit up.  They were living it up and are really deserving because they work as hard as anybody.”


CAN YOU GIVE A SENSE OF HOW SIMILAR THE BUMPS ARE FROM FONTANA TO VEGAS?  IS A BUMP A BUMP?  “It’s definitely a question mark.  I think there’s a chance people will be spinning out and really struggling over those bumps.  They’re really big.  Obviously, we saw a bump at Fontana kind of mess a lot of guys up last weekend, so it’s all about you’re sitting on these shocks and it’s a very harsh ride.  Some guys are gonna push it more than others is the biggest thing, so it’s gonna be interesting.  I don’t think anybody really knows what to expect, so it’s gonna be a new experience every single weekend.”


HOW IS PIT ROAD DIFFERENT WITH THESE CARS?  YOU HAVE BIGGER BRAKING SO CAN YOU DRIVE IN DEEPER AND TO THE CONE?  “Like you said, you can definitely get into your pit box harder and get on pit road harder with the bigger brakes on the car, but also the biggest thing is getting used to how fast the guys are.  I think they’re a couple seconds faster than they used to be, so it’s definitely impressive.  You just have to get used to that and also leaving the pit stall, how much you can push it, how you want to rev the engine up, so just little things here and there.”


WHAT MAKES LAS VEGAS SO DIFFICULT FOR YOU AND DOES THE NEW CAR CHANGE ANYTHING?  “It’s one of those places that’s really in the middle.  It’s starting to get the pavement wore out, but it’s still really high speed and you’ve also got those big bumps in one and two.  It’s a place that is really hard to get a hold of, so it’s gonna be an interesting race like I’ve said before.  It’s gonna be a lot of seeing how far guys want to push it.  I think you’re going to see similar to Fontana, where everybody is on the edge and I think you’re gonna see that same thing this weekend.”


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