Wednesday, Jul 06

Ford Performance NASCAR: Cole Custer Hoping to Add Another Win at Gateway This Weekend

COLE CUSTER, No. 41 Feeding America/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Ford Mustang -- WHAT IS IT LIKE TO GO BACK TO A TRACK WHERE YOU’VE HAD SUCCESS?  “It gives you a little bit of confidence.  I haven’t run the track since 2016, I think, so I’ve never run on the repave so that’s gonna be interesting, but I kind of know the idea of the track.  One end is extremely tight with the feel at that end and then you have the other end that’s really similar to maybe New Hampshire or Phoenix one and two, where it’s really wide and sweeping, so just kind of have to get used to the repave.  I think I have an idea of the racetrack from using the Ford simulator, but the repave is definitely gonna be different than what I was used to.”

 

IF YOU HAD TO WRITE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF ABOUT YOUR NASCAR CAREER, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOURSELF?  “I think the biggest thing is just asking questions and figuring out what is good for you.  I think what works for everybody doesn’t work for you, so you have to kind of figure out your style inside the car and outside the car.  You have to figure out what works for you and I think at this level that really becomes apparent that you have to focus on yourself and figure out what’s gonna work for you inside and outside the car.”

 

YOU’RE IN ST. LOUIS.  HAVE YOU BEEN OUT TO THE TRACK YET?  “No, I haven’t been to the track yet.  I’ve been to the Cardinals stadium, but not the track.”

 

SO YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S DIFFERENT?  “I haven’t seen it.  From what I’ve heard, I saw some of the people who work there yesterday and obviously the repave makes it different than when I was there, but they said they made a lot of renovations with fan zone stuff and throughout the racetrack and the facility.  I’m pretty excited about seeing it because I think it’s come a long way.”

 

WHEN YOU WON THERE IN 2015 WERE YOU SHIFTING?  “If I remember right, it was an option.  I definitely do remember shifting, but I can’t remember if it was every lap or not.”

 

SO YOU MIGHT BE SHIFTING TWICE ON THE FRONTSTRETCH AND ONCE ON THE BACKSTRETCH.  HOW WILL THAT BE?  “I think that is the idea going into it, that we’ll shift twice in one and two and then once in three and four, but we won’t know until we get to practice.  It’s more of a pain than anything to be completely honest.  Doing one shift and everything that’s all fine, but having to do two is a little bit more, but that’s why we’re paid the big bucks, I guess.  As race car drivers we’re always looking for a little advantage over everybody, so I think having that shifting there hopefully we can figure out how to use that to our advantage.”

 

WE SAW SHIFTING USED AT SHORT TRACKS AS A DEFENSE MECHANISM.  WILL IT BE THE SAME AT GATEWAY OR WILL IT BE DIFFERENT?  “I think so, a little bit, for sure.  I think, when you look at it, if you go in there and wash up, make a mistake, you can always grab a gear and the car is gonna accelerate really good off the corner.  It’s gonna be harder for that guy behind you to pass, but it’s just part of these cars.  We have five gears now and I don’t think you’re gonna escape that at Gateway either because the ends are so much different.  You’re always gonna be shifting.  I think at Martinsville we can figure out something to where we can make it so that we don’t have to shift, but Gateway it will always be hard to make that happen.”

 

WHAT MADE CHARLOTTE SO MUCH BETTER THIS TIME AROUND?  “I think the biggest thing is we have a smaller spoiler, less downforce, the cars are really on edge this year, so we were able to move around the track a lot.  And I think the track also did a really good job with how they used the resin, the chemical they put down.  They really didn’t put much down with it, so they made it so we could run multiple lanes and be able to race.  We had a lot of options to try and pass.  The cars were really on edge.  I think you saw that with all the guys spinning out, so they just made it to where there were a lot of options and a lot of guys were edgy and traded a lot of chaos and it was good racing.”

 

THE NUMBERS ARE NOT VERY GOOD THE LAST FEW RACES, BUT YOU WERE IN CONTENTION AT THE END ON SUNDAY BEFORE GETTING CAUGHT UP IN A WRECK.  HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR TEAM DEALT WITH THIS ROUGH STRETCH?  “You just have to keep grinding.  It’s a really long year and you just have to stay at it and keep working with your team and get your cars better and go week by week.  But I think the biggest thing from last week is that we can take a lot of positives and a lot of momentum from that.  I mean, being able to run up there in the top five and have a shot to win the race at the end, that makes you pumped to go to the track the next week.  I think we’re going in the right direction, it’s just a matter of cleaning some things up and having some good luck.  Like you said, it’s been a brutal year from the standpoint of I think we’ve shown we can have speed at times.  I think at Martinsville we were in the top five most of the race.  At COTA were in the top 10 for most of the race and Charlotte we had a really good run, but we’ve had tires roll away, we’ve had motors blow, and we’ve gotten wrecked I think six or seven times, so it seems like one thing after another, but if you bring fast cars to the racetrack, it’ll eventually turn around.”

 

YOU DID THE CHARLOTTE TIRE TEST A MONTH BEFORE THE RACE.  DID THAT HAVE ANY ROLE IN YOUR PERFORMANCE LAST WEEK?  “I think it helps a little bit.  I mean, having those laps there and just kind of get there and settle on what we want in the car and everything and what to expect, but at the same time I think there’s a lot to be said about how hard our team has worked the last few weeks at getting our cars better.  Obviously, Texas and Kansas probably weren’t our best races, so it was a lot of work that went into our team trying to make our cars better and they’ve done a great job.  We went to Charlotte and had some really fast cars by the end of the race, so it gets us really pumped up for going into the summer and hopefully having some speed.”

 

YOU GET A FULL PRACTICE SESSION THIS WEEK.  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN AND HOW CAN THAT HELP?  “It’s exciting, I think mainly for the crew chiefs.  When you look at it, 15 minutes of practice and now we get an hour, they’re probably itching to try a bunch of different things that they’ve been thinking about in their heads and talking with engineers, so I think you’ll see a lot of guys trying some things because now we’re to the point where everybody probably has a little bit of a baseline of where they’re at with these cars, but now you’re gonna try some little different things to get that little bit extra speed, so having this hour long practice, I think you’ll definitely see some guys trying some different setups and things like that.  It’ll be cool.  It’ll be interesting.  Gateway is a hard track to get a hold of because it’s two different ends.  There’s gonna be a lot of shifting like we said before, so we’ll see who comes out on top.”

 

NASCAR HAS SAID SHIFTING ON OVALS IS SOMETHING THEY’RE GOING TO LOOK AT.  WHAT ABOUT THE DRIVERS?  HOW DO YOU GUYS FEEL ABOUT HAVING TO DO THAT?  “I don’t want to speak for everybody, but for me I think at places like Gateway, Darlington, Pocono, it’s gonna be really hard to make it to where we don’t shift at those places.  I mean, it’s probably gonna be a thing that’s part of the racing now, but I think when you look at Martinsville and the traditional tracks that we don’t shift at, it doesn’t help the racing to have the shifting.  It makes it a little bit more busy as a driver at times and stuff like that, but I don’t think it helps the racing when you can kind of grab a gear and accelerate off the corner.  Even if you make a little mistake you can kind of make up for it with the shift, so I think it’s something where going to the traditional tracks and not shifting would probably be better.”

 

RESIN WAS USED AT CHARLOTTE AND HAS BEEN USED MORE FREQUENTLY THAN PJ1.  IS THAT BETTER FOR DRIVERS?  “Yeah, it seems like it’s just kind of a milder kind of PJ1, I would say.  It doesn’t put off maybe quite as much grip as PJ1 and, like you said, it probably doesn’t take quite as long to work in either.  Last week, I think they only put one coat down, which was not very much, so I think that’s what made it to where we could move around the track a lot.  Charlotte probably doesn’t need it as much anymore just because the surface is aging, so it’s definitely interesting to say the least.  I think the direction that they’re going of a little bit of resin or less or almost no chemicals is probably better.”

 

HAVE YOU HAD ANY TIME IN THE SIMULATOR FOR GATEWAY AND DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEKEND?  “We went to the Ford simulator and got to run a decent amount.  I think there’s gonna be shifting.  I think that’s kind of  a for sure, but it’s two different ends.  It’s a track that I haven’t seen in four or five years and I haven’t seen the repave, so it’s gonna be a hard track to get a hold of for the teams, I think, just from the standpoint of you have one end that’s really tight, you have one end that’s really sweeping, so it’s gonna be an interesting weekend.”

 

IT SEEMS SHR TENDS TO GET MUCH BETTER THE LONGER THE RACE GOES ON?  DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT FOR YOUR TEAM AND IS IT NOTICED WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION?  “I think it’s just a matter of dialing your car in more and more throughout the race and finding what you need in it, and I think we’re getting better and better about unloading and figuring out what we need in our cars, so that will get better as the year goes on.  Overall, I think our team, at Charlotte especially, we did a great job of making the car better and once it went to night time we really came to life, so hopefully we can keep building on it and have a few good weeks here.”

 

CHARLOTTE HAS ALWAYS BEEN TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE.  WAS IT THAT WAY WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR OR COULDN’T YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE?  “Yeah, I mean Charlotte is probably one of the most temperature-sensitive tracks that we go to on the schedule.  For me personally, my car didn’t change a ton, it just had way more grip.  It’s like a light switch.  When the shade happens and it goes to night time, it’s unreal how much grip that track picks up.  We’ve always seen that at Charlotte.  It’s pretty crazy.”

 

GATEWAY HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT TRACK IN YOUR RACING HISTORY.  DOES IT HOLD A SPECIAL PLACE IN YOUR HEART?  “Yeah, I think so for sure.  I think it was my first pole, and I’m pretty sure we got the track record when we went there, and then I won one of my truck races here, so it’s one of those places that I took to well and I really like it.  I think in one and two you’re able to be able to go in there and be really aggressive on the brakes, get the car slowed down, get it to hook the line and then you’re trying to get up to speed as fast as you can for that long straightaway on the backstretch.  And then you go into a completely different corner in three and four that is a big sweeper corner and it’s similar to New Hampshire.  We actually won another truck race there and Phoenix, so it was definitely a good track for us and hopefully can keep it going.”

 

IS IT A FACT THAT THE NEXT GEN CARS FROM A COMPETITION STANDPOINT ARE CLOSER?  “I think it’s definitely a closer field of cars.  I think you can see that you’ll have guys who start off the race not as good as they want to be and then they’ll get it better just because there’s only so far off you can be, I guess.  There still are good cars and bad cars, but it’s in a tighter box, so I think it’s made it a little bit more competitive.  You’ll see teams that haven’t run up front in the past.  I mean, they’re right up there competing for wins, so it’s made it good, I think.  Like I said, the cars are on edge on the bigger tracks especially just because you don’t probably have the downforce that you would want when you go to places like that, but it makes the drivers work that much harder and makes for some exciting racing.”

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