Event: Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 (Round 32 of 33)
Date: Nov. 10, 2018
Location: ISM Raceway near Phoenix
Layout: Mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
- Cole Custer won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, clinching his spot in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17. He is currently ranked first in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff standings.
- This marks Custer’s first Xfinity Series championship eligibility at Homestead. Custer won the 2017 season finale at Homestead by 15.405 seconds after winning Stages 1 and 2 and leading 182 of 200 laps. He also earned a perfect driver rating of 150.
- Saturday’s Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix is the third and final race of the second round of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs. The playoffs began with 12 eligible drivers and are divided into three rounds with the first two rounds consisting of three races apiece, followed by a final, single-race round at the Homestead season finale. Four drivers are eliminated after each of the first two rounds to ultimately establish four finalists at Homestead. Drivers automatically qualify for the next round with a win in the current round with the remaining spots determined by the point standings. At Homestead, the top-finishing driver among the four finalists wins the championship.
- The Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 is the last of five mile-oval races during the 33-event season. In 67 Xfinity Series starts, 42 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and 29 NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts since 2015, Custer has five wins, eight poles, 17 top-five finishes, 33 top-10s and 1,077 laps led at tracks that are a mile in length or shorter.
- This will be Custer’s fourth Xfinity Series start and his ninth overall at Phoenix. Custer has three Truck Series starts and three K&N Pro Series starts at Phoenix. Custer’s best Truck Series finish is third in 2014 and, that same year, he won the K&N Pro Series race. Custer also has a K&N Series pole at Phoenix, earned in 2013 when he first competed at the track.
- Custer has three top-five finishes, seven top-10s, two poles, one win and has led 111 laps in eight career Xfinity, Truck and K&N starts at Phoenix.
- Custer has two wins, 13 top-five finishes, 24 top-10s, five top-five finishes and has led 596 laps in 69 career Xfinity Series starts.
- Custer’s five pole awards in this season tie Christopher Bell for most poles in the series and his average starting position of 6.2 is the best among Xfinity Series drivers.
- Earlier this year at Phoenix, Custer started third and ran in and around the top-five before earning his second Xfinity Serie top-10 at Phoenix.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
What mindset do you head to Phoenix with after clinching your spot in the Championship 4?
“We’re still going to head into Phoenix firing on all eight cylinders to get a trophy. There are two races left and we want to end the season winning three in a row and a championship. That’s exactly what we plan to do.”
Do you think you have a good shot at winning the championship at Homestead?
“We obviously have a great setup from last year at Homestead, but that doesn’t promise anything so we still need to do our homework. We can’t go into that weekend thinking we’re just going to race as well as we did last year. We have to go to Homestead like we did in Texas and give it all we have to bring home the championship.”
How did it feel to win at Texas?
“I couldn’t believe it. The No. 1 car is the best pusher in the series and I hated that I didn’t have him behind me. We did all we could. I drove it in deeper than I have all weekend and it worked out. I was pumped for Autodesk. It was their first time on the car. Gene Haas, I wouldn’t be here without him and Haas Automation. I am pumped. We are going to Homestead and I think we have a great shot of winning.”
You have a win at Phoenix. What is it about that track that fits your driving style?
“I’ve been lucky enough to drive some fast cars there, but I think I’ve taken to flat tracks fairly well and it’s a feel I just like. We had a quick Haas Automation Ford Mustang there last season so, with the notes we have now, we should be even quicker.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
Now that you aren’t racing for points, how does the strategy change at Phoenix?
“Really, the only thing that changes for me is not having to worry about stage points. We can make pit calls based on getting the best finish rather than gathering the most points. Everything else is business as usual – try to sit on the pole and win the race.”