Event: Boyd Gaming 300
Date: Saturday, March. 11, 2017
Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
- Code 3 Associates will be the primary partner onboard Rookie of the Year contender Cole Custer’s No. 00 Ford Mustang at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first time this season.Code 3 Associates is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas. Formed in 1985, Colorado-based Code 3 Associates is a national response team that, at the request of local government officials, provides animal rescue and recovery in times of disaster. The organization has evolved from one unpaid volunteer to approximately 75 professional responders and thousands of members around the country, which include animal welfare, law enforcement, fire, EMS and veterinary specialists from the United States and Canada. While its focus is animals and their owners, Code 3 Associates trains its responders to the standards of human rescue, and Code 3 Associates also provides training to conduct thorough investigations into animal welfare issues, all of which is accredited by Colorado State University and the school’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
- The Boyd Gaming 300 event will mark Custer’s first NASCAR XFINITY Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
- On Saturday, Oct. 21, 2016, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas, Custer led three laps prior to earning a third-place finish – his only start at the 1.5-mile oval in any series.
- This weekend, NASCAR is headed West. Custer a Ladera Ranch, California, native grew up racing in grassroots series across the Western United States and, while this will be his first start at Las Vegas in NASCAR’s XFINITY Series, the young gun isn’t a stranger to racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway campus. Custer began racing at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011, earning a victory in the USAC Young Gun division to help him to secure the USAC National Focus Young Gun Championship. Then, in 2012, he became the youngest Late Model division winner at the Bullring, also earning the NASCAR Nevada Rookie of the Year title.
- 00 crew chief Jeff Meendering isn’t a stranger to success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Meendering was named crew chief for Bobby Labonte throughout the 2008 season, earning a top-20 finish in his third race with the team. He has come close to victory lane at the West Coast track as a car chief for Jeff Gordon, earning a fourth-place finish in 2005, a fifth-place finish in 2006 and a second-place finish in 2007.
- As 19-year-old Custer heads into this weekend’s race at Las Vegas, he is already two races into his campaign for Rookie of the Year honors. After an incident not of his own fault at Daytona set him back in the points, he gained ground with a top-10 effort Saturday at Atlanta. He now trails the 2017 Rookie of the Year lead heading into Las Vegas by 11 points over first-place William Byron. Custer has accumulated 17 rookie points this year through the first two races. He has a history of performing well as a NASCAR Rookie of the Year contender, earning third in the Truck Series rookie standings in 2016.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
Describe a lap behind the wheel at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s pretty much just really fast and you’re wide open. You’re going to start racing around the bottom, but you’ll be able to move around a bit by the end of the day. The biggest challenge is just trying to get used to the edgy feeling that you’re going to have from running wide open.”
How confident are you going into Las Vegas after your top-10 finish at Atlanta?
“We’re definitely really confident. I felt like we had a really fast car that was maybe even a little bit better than where we finished. We’re really confident just to get going at Las Vegas and see what we have with that same package. I think we’re going to be pretty good and we’re looking forward to it.”
Describe your relationship with Code 3 Associates and what it means to represent their organization in Vegas.
“I’ve always had pets when I was younger so I love hearing that they are helping all kinds of animals after natural disasters. It’s awesome to have a company behind you like that because it’s such a great cause and one that I believe strongly in. I’m just going to go and try to make them proud because they are giving us so much support. Hopefully we can make them proud this weekend with a good run.”
You grew up racing on the West Coast and even at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What are you most looking forward to about heading closer to home and about racing at Las Vegas?
“It’s definitely going home for me, so it’s cool to see some friends throughout the West Coast swing. I’ve been to Vegas a lot of times, so it’s a familiar territory and it’s awesome to race at the speedway. I definitely ran a lot of races at the Bullring and it was a really fun track to race on. It was neat because I would look at the big track and think about racing there someday, but I was just the smaller guy working my way up back then and hoping to race there one day and now I’m actually racing there. It’s pretty humbling to think I’ve come this far.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
What are the biggest challenges you will need to overcome on racing at Las Vegas? Does the new package come into play?
“The challenges at Las Vegas are mostly in the track characteristics. It’s pretty bumpy getting into turn one and you can have a hard time setting up the car around that. While some teams are still talking about the new package, honestly, the package change this year doesn’t really come into play as much for us because we’re a new team so everything is new. It’s kind of nice because as far as we’re concerned everything is new and we have the Cup notes to work off of the aero balances and the XFINITY balances are really close to what the Cup aero balances were last year, so we can kind of gauge everything off of that to help with set up right now.”
Knowing that Cole finished in the top three in his only start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, does this give you a level of confidence going into this weekend?
“I’m really confident. Most of our intermediate setups are carrying over from one track to the next so it’s just fine tuning from there with springs and shocks. I feel like after having that strong run there in Atlanta that momentum should keep carrying over to all of these intermediate tracks.”