Notes of Interest
● Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500k at Phoenix Raceway marks the 79th NASCAR Cup Series start of Cole Custer’s career and takes him to the track where he scored his first of nine career Cup Series top-10s.
● That March 2020 race on the desert mile oval was just the seventh career Cup Series start for the driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and it resulted in a ninth-place finish from the 38th starting position. He followed it up with another near-top-10 in the 2020 season finale at Phoenix that capped his Cup Series Rookie of the Year season. But that top-10 bid was derailed by an unscheduled pit stop to replace a loose wheel during the final stage. Custer finished 13th at Phoenix in last year’s Cup Series finale.
● In six NASCAR Xfinity Series outings at Phoenix from 2017 through 2019, all behind the wheel of the No. 00 SHR Ford, Custer started in the top-four and finished in the top-eight in each of the last five, with a best result of second from the second starting position in the November 2018 race. He finished .810 of a second behind Justin Allgaier in that race after recording four of his six career Xfinity Series laps led at Phoenix.
● In Custer’s three career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series appearances at Phoenix, he has a best finish of third in the November 2014 race in the No. 00 Haas Automation entry behind winner Erik Jones and runner-up Matt Crafton.
● Custer dominated the February 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix in the No. 00 for owner Bill McAnally. He qualified on the pole and led a race-high 62 laps en route to his third of four career K&N Series wins.
● After his 20th-place run in the season-opening Daytona 500 and his 11th-place finish the following weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Custer saw his bid for a top-15 finish last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway come to an end with a mechanical issue early in the final stage. The DNF ended his streak of 20 consecutive races running at the finish, and the 33rd-place result dropped him to 26th in the driver standings.
● Riding along with Custer and his SHR 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 in July 2020. 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 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
Do you expect the racing to be much different with the new NextGen car at Phoenix this weekend compared to the Gen 6 car there last 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 going to 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 from this weekend’s race to this year’s November race?
“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. 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.”
How different is it getting onto and off of pit road with the NextGen car, so far?
“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.”
You’ve had a solid racecar at the first three races thus far. To what would you attribute that solid start, aside from the mechanical issue at Las Vegas last weekend?
“I think it’s just a matter of trusting in our people. We have a lot of great people at Stewart-Haas Racing who have worked extremely hard on this new car, trying to get ahead of it. So I think we hit the ground running on this season. It’s a matter of getting our organization back to victory lane, where we belong. It wasn’t the year that any of us wanted last year, so I think we’re on our way to rebounding.”