COLE CUSTER – 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race Advance

By capturing his first career NASCAR Cup Series win Sunday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Cole Custer locked himself and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com/Autodesk Fusion 360 team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) into Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The win also means HaasTooling.com is offering 15% off purchases from their website by using the code “Kentucky.”

SHR has two entries locked into the $1 million-to-win exhibition event by virtue of race wins. Custer’s teammate Kevin Harvick has multiple wins this season. SHR’s Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer have the opportunity to race their way in via the All-Star Open, which precedes the All-Star Race, or by winning the NASCAR.com fan vote. “This is a great opportunity for the No. 41 team and all of our sponsors,” said Custer’s crew chief Mike Shiplett. “Everybody puts in so much effort and to know that we’re already locked into the All-Star Race is huge.”

Winning the $1 million first prize would go a long way for Custer, who has just 20 Cup Series starts. The All-Star Race will consist of four stages for a total of 140 laps at the Tennessee short track. The All-Star Race will also feature a choose cone rule, where drivers will have the opportunity to select which lane they want to restart in as long as they make the decision before they reach the designated spot on the track as determined by NASCAR. Making the decision after the designated spot will incur a penalty for the driver. “I think the choose cone will put a lot into the driver’s hands,” Custer said. “It’ll be interesting when you dominate one lane at the track, but who knows. You’re going to have decide how much risk you want to take – which lane has been really good, and how even they are. It’s going to change throughout the race, which lane you’ll want to take, and that will keep it interesting.”

Additionally, fans will notice all cars locked into the main event on Wednesday will have lights glowing underneath as they shine down on the racetrack. “It’s pretty unbelievable to be locked into the All-Star Race on Wednesday,” Custer said. “I only have to focus on the main event, versus the Open, too. I’ll have the light shining underneath my car and that’s cool.”

The 22-year-old raced at Bristol for the first time in the Cup Series on May 31. Custer started 22nd but finished 35th after getting caught up in a multicar accident. The All-Star Race is usually held at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May, but was moved to this week at Bristol due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the All-Star Race provides the opportunity to change things up a little bit, the paint schemes on the racecars will feature the car number in a noticeably different place, moved rearward from the traditional spot centered on the door panel. That is intended to allow sponsor logos to be more centered along the side of the car. The No. 41 livery will be shared this weekend by HaasTooling.com and Autodesk Fusion 360. Team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding Haas Tooling was recently 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. The cutting tools available for purchase on HaasTooling.com are even more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment.

Autodesk is a leading designer and supplier of software for the architecture, engineering, construction, media and entertainment, and manufacturing industries. Autodesk’s Fusion 360 cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software brings enterprise-grade capabilities, data services, and a support network to teams of any size, uniting people, products, and processes across the product development process. The company empowers customers, like SHR, to push their boundaries and shape a thriving future.

What makes the HaasTooling.com and Autodesk Fusion 360 relationship unique is that Autodesk recently integrated the ability to directly purchase Haas Tooling components via its software. “Autodesk’s Fusion 360 integration of Haas Tooling directly within Fusion’s cloud-based platform, gives engineers, CNC programmers and CNC operators direct access to Haas’ proven cutting tools, data and presets,” said Adam N. Smith, manager, Strategic Partnerships, at Autodesk. “Haas Tooling’s integration continues to support Fusion 360’s commitment to delivering end-to-end workflows with industry-leading partners.”

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.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together. Custer’s win at Kentucky made him the first 2020 rookie candidate to capture a win this season.

 

COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com/Autodesk Fusion 360 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How does it feel to be locked into the All-Star Race?

“I was a little nervous originally thinking I was going to have to race in the Open. Bristol isn’t easy and there are a lot of good guys in the Open this year. To already be locked into the All-Star Race takes a lot of stress off. It’ll be fun to race for one million dollars. We were pretty solid at Bristol (in May) but ended up getting wrecked.”

You’re the first of this year’s “big three” in the rookie class to get a win. What does it feel like?

“I’m very thankful. I’m with an amazing team that has stuck behind me when we’ve had some tough races – really tough races. It’s definitely been a learning experience, but I think we’ve grown from that and dug deep to figure out how to get better each race. It’s just unbelievable to be in this situation. Coming into this year, I was just trying to gain respect, and fit in, and earn the respect of the other drivers. To get a win already is almost unimaginable.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race Advance

Kevin Harvick became a NASCAR All-Star back in 2001 and has been one every year since.

He was 26 years old in March of 2001 when he scored his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was in his third-ever Cup Series race and immediately qualified him for that year’s All-Star Race.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has two wins, four second-place finishes, six top-fives, 12 top-10s and has led 157 laps in 19 previous All-Star events.

But those all took place at the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and, Wednesday night, the event will take for the first time at the .533-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval.

Harvick will also have Busch Light Apple on his car for the All-Star Race, as well as on July 23 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and the doubleheader Aug. 8 and 9 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Busch Light Apple is a refreshing, light lager, which combines the crispness of Busch with the light sweetness of apple flavor. It’s like the sound of refreshment meets the taste of the orchard, and is the first flavor innovation in the history of the Busch Light brand.

The All-Star Race will feature several new wrinkles Wednesday night.

Each driver’s car number won’t be centered on the driver-side door panel as normal. Instead, it will move back toward the rear wheel, giving teams more room for the sponsor logos on the sides of the cars. Also, the cars will feature underglow lighting beneath them that should add a visual effect never seen at a Cup Series race.

Additionally a choose rule will be in effect Wednesday night. When drivers emerge single file after pit stops under caution, a lap or two before the restart they will drive to a designated spot on the track marked by a cone, where they must commit to either the inside or outside lane. Failure to make a clear choice, or changing lanes after the designated spot, will result in a tail-of-the-field penalty. This is different from the current double-file restart system, where only the race leader chooses his lane.

Having the rule for the All-Star Race gives every driver the ability to make his own decision on whether to start in the inside or outside lane, and strategy will come into play in every instance. For example, the second-place driver could choose to start behind the leader or on the front row. Or, if the first four drivers pick the same lane because it is the preferred groove, the driver in fifth might decide to restart on the front row, even though it may be the non-preferred groove.

The All-Star Race will have four stages with Stage One lasting 55 laps, Stages Two and Three at 35 laps apiece, and Stage Four lasting 15 laps. Only green-flag laps will count in the final stage, and the final stage will end with a checkered flag. If the race is restarted with two or fewer laps remaining, then there will be unlimited attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

It doesn’t matter if a driver has been an All-Star for almost 20 years running come Wednesday night. There is a $1 million first price is on the line, which means it should be a heck of a show.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

Thoughts on the All-Star Race moving to Bristol?

“It’s going to look much different than the All-Star Races we’ve had over the past several years. I think all of us, from the drivers’ perspective and the fans’ perspective, have been itching for our All-Star Race. I think it’s going to be very similar to old Bristol because they are going to spray the traction compound on the bottom of the racetrack and there are very short races that are going to happen (starting with the All-Star Open). What I think is going to happen is the majority of the race is going to be run on the bottom of the racetrack, which means, in order to pass somebody, you’re probably going to have to use the front bumper, which could get pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to it and I’m really excited about the change for the All-Star Race.”

How strange has it been with no fans at any of these races?

“Anything I’ve ever competed in, whether it’s fantasy football, racing or park league basketball, you always had someone to share it with. And right now they really don’t let us be around anybody at the racetrack. And they just abandon us (laughs). Once the TV people leave, I drive the car to victory lane, I take a few pictures and then they make me leave (laughs). You have all that enthusiasm and excitement and it’s the strangest thing, but it’s a good reminder of how much enthusiasm you have to share with the fans and how much you feed off of that after you get out of the car. I’m looking forward to getting back to that, but am I excited that we are racing and that brings some normalcy with what’s going on.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 All-Star Open Race Advance

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang, looks to race for $1 million Wednesday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where the venue will host the NASCAR All-Star Race for the first time.

Sunday at Kentucky Motor Speedway in Sparta, Almirola started second and led a race-high 128 laps, and showed a promising run before he emerged in 20th after the first sequence of green-flag pit stops. The No. 10 Smithfield Ford driver managed to race his way back to eighth place to earn his sixth-straight top-10.

He finished fifth June 14 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, third June 22 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, third and fifth in the June 27 and 28 doubleheader at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, and third July 5 in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the best finishing streak of his career. Almirola’s next-best streak was a run of six consecutive top-10s in 2019 that began with the second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and lasted through the series’ seventh race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Almirola has led 218 laps this season, surpassing his previous number of laps led in a single season in 2018, when he led 181.

“It’s been awesome to go to every track and be able to compete for a win,” Almirola said. “This team is busting it in the shop every week and it shows. We’ve been so consistent lately. When we came to Bristol earlier this year, we had a great car and got caught up in a wreck. That’s Bristol. I know this Smithfield team will unload with a car capable of getting us into the All-Star Race.”

Almirola is not locked into the All-Star Race and will have to race his way in through the All-Star Open that precedes it, unless he wins the fan vote. To aid the team’s endeavor to make the All-Star Race, Almirola’s longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods has given fans an opportunity to “vote for bacon” in order to secure their driver’s eligibility.

“A vote for me is a vote for bacon,” Almirola said. “I’m not one to promote myself and ask for popularity or votes, so fans can vote for bacon for a chance to earn free bacon for a year and we might make it into the All-Star Race. Smithfield is always giving back to our fan base, as we saw in Talladega when we gave away bacon for life.”

To “vote for bacon” and help secure Almirola’s eligibility in the All-Star Race, visit www.voteforbacon.com for a chance to win Smithfield bacon for a year, a private meet-and-greet with Almirola, and free SHR merchandise.

The No. 10 Ford driver sits eighth in the playoff standings for his career-best points position after 17 races. In his first two seasons at SHR in 2018 and 2019, Almirola was 11th in the standings after 17 races.

Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 23 top-five finishes, 70 top-10s and 755 laps led in 333 starts. In addition to his recent string of top-fives, he has nine top-10s.

Almirola continues to provide fans with content from his documentary series Beyond the 10, where they can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

“Bristol is one of my favorite tracks,” Almirola said. “It would be awesome to be voted in by the fans, but I’m excited to try and race my way in for the million with all of the momentum that we have.”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What do you think about the All-Star Race being at Bristol? 

“I’m always open to change. I think this is going to be a lot of fun. I mean, you have guys battling for $1 million at a track that is known for conflict and the bump-and-run. If it comes down to winning, you know what’s going to happen.”

How does Bristol’s track surface change during the race?

“Bristol is one of those places where the track changes throughout the run, especially in the last couple of years, when they put the (traction) compound down on the bottom groove. That has tended to get rubbered up and get really slick as the run moves on and the cars migrate to the top of the racetrack. The top of the racetrack is not very good when it’s clean but, when it starts to rubber up, it actually gains momentum and gets faster, so the groove moves around a lot from run to run and throughout the run, and that makes it fun and it makes it exciting. As a driver, it gives you the option to search around and look for speed.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 All-Star Open Race Advance

It doesn’t take much to get Clint Bowyer excited about Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race held for the first time ever at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and run with a few interesting changes.

Marrying the sport’s toughest track with its wildest race and the biggest purse is sure to produce fireworks. Now, throw in $1 million to the winner and it merits everyone’s attention, including Bowyer’s.

“It is the All-Star Race. One million dollars! Say it with me. It is one of those things where you have been dreaming of the opportunity for a long time,” said Bowyer, who finished second May 31 in the most recent points race at Bristol.

“I’m glad for the opportunity to get this All-Star Race to Bristol. I thought it was a perfect fit for the All-Star format and I am excited to get there and see it all go down.”

Bowyer is a three-time winner of the NASCAR Open race that precedes the All Star event. A fourth win, or if he wins either of the Open’s first two segments, will earn Bowyer a spot in the All Star Race. If all else fails, he’s in a close battle to win the fan vote to transfer one more Open competitor to the All Star Race.

Three drivers have won the All-Star Race after advancing from the Open.

The All-Star Open and the All-Star Race will feature several new wrinkles Wednesday night.

Each driver’s car number won’t be centered on the driver-side body panel as normal. Instead, it will move back toward the rear wheel, giving teams more room for the sponsor logos on the sides of the cars. Also, the cars will feature underglow lighting beneath them that should add a visual effect never seen at a Cup Series race.

Additionally a choose rule will be in effect Wednesday night. When drivers emerge single file after pit stops under caution, a lap or two before the restart they will drive to a designated spot on the track marked by a cone, where they must commit to either the inside or outside lane for the restart. Failure to make a clear choice or changing lanes after the designated spot will result in a tail-of-the-field penalty. This is different from the current double-file restart system, where only the race leader chooses his lane.

Having the rule for the All-Star Race gives every driver the ability to make his own decision on whether to start in the inside or outside lane, and strategy will come into play in every instance. For example, the second-place driver could choose to start behind the leader or on the front row. Or, if the first four drivers pick the same lane because it is the preferred groove, the driver in fifth might decide to restart on the front row, even though it may be the non-preferred groove.

Bowyer approves of all the new wrinkles, but cautions race fans not to expect too much from the choose rule.

“I think it’s a good idea, but I want us to be careful and not oversell it,” he said. “For the most part, I don’t see people giving up two or three spots to stay on the outside. Possibly, if you are on old tires or something like that, that is where an opportunity like that comes in. Can it work? Yes. The rest of the car changes are going to be really cool and I can’t wait to see them under the lights.”

The All-Star Open will have three stages with Stages 1 and 2 being 35 laps apiece and Stage 3 lasting 15 laps. The winner of each stage, as well as the winner of the All-Star Fan Vote, will advance to the All-Star Race main event. In addition to the Open stage winners and Fan Vote winner, the All-Star Race consists of 2019 and 2020 race winners, as well as previous All-Star winners and active full-time Cup champions.

The All-Star Race will have four stages with Stage 1 lasting 55 laps, Stages 2 and 3 35 laps apiece, and Stage 4 lasting 15 laps. Only green-flag laps will count in the final stage, and the final stage will end with a checkered flag. If the race is restarted with two or fewer laps remaining, then there will be unlimited attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang will carry Rush Truck Centers and Mobil 1 decals at Bristol. Rush has been the primary partner for the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. 

Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

Wednesday’s event is the NASCAR Cup Series’ 14th since the Cup Series returned from a 10-week hiatus on May 17 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it did at the previous 13 races, NASCAR series and team personnel in the infield will continue to operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan at Bristol that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.

Bowyer arrives at Bristol after finishing 14th Sunday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. A caution after a green-flag stop and late damage hurt Bowyer’s chances for what looked like a top-five finish in the making. A caution has fallen just laps after Bowyer made green-flag stops three times in the two most recent Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Kentucky.

“We have been running well, but we could obviously use a good finish,” Bowyer said. “There’s no better place for me than Bristol, so I’m pretty pumped up about Wednesday night.”

And, as Bowyer is quick to point out, there’s also $1 million on the line.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Can you describe your season so far?

“It is hard trying to learn one another in this format, with no practice or anything else. Honestly, it is just weird. It feels like you should have an asterisk behind every finish. If we would have had practice, we would have had a little different run or a different setup in the car and wouldn’t have encountered those problems. Those are all things that not having that chance to communicate and work with one another that we just don’t have and take for granted right now. It is the same for everybody. You have to unload well and my teammate Kevin Harvick says all the time that you can’t drive a slow car fast. We have had fast racecars and have led laps. We are kind of snake-bit right now. I hate the words bad luck, but I mean, at Indy we were seventh place and pretty much had it locked up. With 21 to go, caution comes out. We pit, two laps later the caution comes out and the rest is history. We are a lap down and 17th on old tires. You are screwed. Same thing happens in Kentucky on Sunday. We are top-five and caution comes out. It is just the way it is right now. I have been racing long enough to know that it will flip and those runs will come back. We have some good tracks for us coming up. We need a good run. We need a confidence booster. My crew, (crew chief) Johnny Klausmeier, everyone does a great job and works their butts off. It is hard to showcase how hard they are working right now by just showing up and racing. You don’t get that run that you deserve, sometimes, like what happened to us in Indy and Kentucky”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 NXS Kentucky Race Advance

Event:  NASCAR Xfinity Series Doubleheader (Rounds 14-15 of 33)
Date:  July 9-10, 2020
Location:  Kentucky Speedway in Sparta
Layout:  1.5-mile oval

 

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest

 

•  This week’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta marks the series’ second doubleheader of the season. Two Xfinity Series races will be held on back-to-back nights at the 1.5-mile oval, beginning with the Shady Rays 200 on Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT. The series will take to the track again at 8 p.m. EDT on Friday for the Alsco 300. Both events will be broadcast live on FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

•  Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Mustang has proven to be a verifiable thoroughbred in 2020. At the reins of his trusty steed, Briscoe hasscored a series-leading five wins this season andholds a 21-point lead in the championship standings. Now Briscoe brings his blue-and-white Ford Mustang to the Bluegrass State intent on grabbing his sixth victory and his third straight, as the Stewart-Haas Racingdriver enters Kentucky fresh off of back-to-back wins at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

•  Briscoe’s recent Indy triumph didn’t come easy. He started 12th in the 38-car field and took the lead for the first time on lap 24, eventually leading five times for a race-high 30 laps. But leading the final two laps took considerable effort, as Briscoe had to battle road-course ace A.J. Allmendinger in the final seven tours around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. Allmendinger took the lead from Briscoe on lap 59 and jettisoned him to third after the Stewart-Haas Racing pilot overdrove a corner. But Briscoe buckled down and set his sights on regaining the lead, reasserting his position at the front of the field with a powerful drive past second-place Austin Cindric and leader Allmendinger on the penultimate lap. Briscoe deftly wheeled his No. 98 Ford Mustang around the serpentine layout inside the hallowed grounds of the Brickyard, pulling out a 1.717-second margin of victory over runner-up Justin Haley.

•  With the win at Indy, Briscoe became only the second driver in Xfinity Series history to earn five or more wins in the first 13 races of the season. The first driver to do so was Sam Ard in 1984 as part of an eight-win season that earned Ard his second straight Xfinity Series title.

•  While Briscoe is an Indiana native, he claims Kentucky as his second home track. The 1.5-mile oval in Sparta us just 100 miles east of the 25-year-old’s hometown of Mitchell, Indiana.

•  Briscoe has only one Xfinity Series appearance at Kentucky. It came last year when he started ninth and led three times for 14 laps before finishing fifth. But outside of the Xfinity Series, Briscoe has two additional starts at Kentucky – one in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series (2017) and one in the ARCA Racing Series (2016).

 

CHASE BRISCOE, Driver of the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang:

 

Five wins in 13 races is an incredible accomplishment, and you’ve been adamant since the beginning of the year that the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School team is capable of even more. What do you see in this team that gives you that confidence?

“Every single racetrack we’ve gone to we’ve been in the hunt. It’s pretty unbelievable to think we’ve gone to 13 races and have had a chance to win every single one of them. I know it sounds so cliché to say it, but it’s a testament to the guys on this Ford Performance Racing School team. It really is. At Indianapolis we had practice, but every other week we don’t, and to show up and be that good week in and week out without that extra track time just shows how good they are at their jobs and really shows the strength and depth of Stewart-Haas Racing. On pavement especially, you’re only as good as the racecar you’re in. You can’t make up for a big gap like you can on dirt. I feel like I’m blessed to be the guy that gets to race with this team and be in that position.”

You’ve overcome a lot of adversity to finish up front in a lot of races this year. What do you feel you need to improve on as we approach the second half of the season?

“It’s doing the little things right, like maximizing pit road speed, but not speeding. I’ve been caught speeding three or four times this year. I want to get better as a racecar driver in general and minimize mistakes. I feel like I’ve been doing a better job of that, but I still make mistakes. A lot of times these races are won by the guy who makes the least mistakes. Then, just cleaning up the whole race. I could be a lot better at the beginning of these races. I ride around but feel my car out, especially with no practice, and I don’t rush my way to the front. I kind of pick my way in and out of cars and feel my way. It’s been working for us because we’ve been able to be there at the end of these races, but I also need to capitalize on stage points. For as many wins as we have, we don’t necessarily have that many stage points because I haven’t been 110 percent aggressive from Stage 1. So, just fine-tuning the little details and being better at describing what I need in my racecar. Coming from the dirt world, it was a fresh start, and I’ve learned a ton in the last year-and-a-half about setup, but I feel I could be a lot better.”

You put a lot of pressure on yourself to do well this season. Is that how you keep yourself focused?

“It’s weird to say but I feel like I’ve always thrived under pressure. I set a goal for myself and the team has stuck behind me, but it’s kind of like Babe Ruth calling his shot. I knew if I did that, I had to back it up. I’ve always fed on the pressure. You go back to the Roval and I won it. A lot of people don’t realize I didn’t have a ride if I didn’t win that race. Sleeping on couches, volunteering in race shops, and only having one race to prove myself, I had to do the best I could. So, I put a number out there. I want to win more races and prove my worth. I felt like that was an attainable goal and that if I put the pressure on myself it would give me something to shoot for.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 Kentucky Race Advance

Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has won 59 times in 1,324 races since its first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2009. The victories have come at every track except one – the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in Sparta where the series races Sunday afternoon.

“We’d like to win at Kentucky for a lot of reasons, but making it a sweep for SHR would be cool,” said No. 14 One Cure Ford Mustang driver Clint Bowyer, who’s earned two of his 10 career victories at SHR.

SHR has not won in either of the two “roval” races at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, but owns a win at the facility’s oval configuration.

“Winning at every track is an impressive accomplishment,” said Bowyer. “I still look at our team as one of the new teams in the sport, so it’s hard to believe there’s been so much success so fast. This sport is as competitive as it has ever been. Winning at every track would be a compliment to the men and women at SHR, as well as the corporate partners who make all this happen.”

SHR is owned by Gene Haas and three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who earned the organization’s first victory on June 7, 2009 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. SHR scored its first Daytona 500 victory in 2017 when Kurt Busch took the checkered flag, and has notched championships with Stewart in 2011 and Kevin Harvick in 2014.

Harvick’s 30 victories are the most of any driver in an SHR car. Stewart won 16 times, Kurt Busch six, Ryan Newman four, Bowyer, twice, and Aric Almirola once.

Bowyer could add to the total Sunday afternoon at Kentucky.

“We were pretty good there last year,” he said. “We led 40 laps and finished sixth. It’s a tricky place. Usually, Kentucky is hit-or-miss with some really strong runs and then times you just struggle for grip. I imagine it’s going to be hot and slippery Sunday afternoon.”

Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will carry the decals of One Cure Sunday afternoon. The One Cure project is led by the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. It is founded on the principle that cancer affects all creatures and that treatment breakthroughs come through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with people and animals. This approach is known as comparative oncology and it is the guiding concept of One Cure and the Flint Animal Cancer Center. The center works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets, and teams with the human medical field to translate research findings that will help people with cancer.

The center, located in Colorado State’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 130 of them enrolled in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope for the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.

Bowyer’s green-and-white paint scheme will feature Winston – a golden retriever who died of cancer a few years ago, but lived longer based on the findings of a prior clinical trial.

“This is a real honor to carry the One Cure paint scheme and spread the word on all the good work Colorado State’s Flint Animal Cancer Center is doing,” Bowyer said. “Anyone who knows me or hangs around me knows how much I love animals, whether it’s our dogs or farm animals. So, helping animals is important to me but, when you can take what you know from animals and translate it to us humans, that’s just amazing and important for all of us.”

One Cure has been one of Bowyer’s partners at SHR since he climbed into the No. 14 racecar in 2018. The program’s goal is to direct fans to www.OneCure.com, where they can learn about the research and to offer financial support.

Sunday’s race marks the 13th race since the Cup Series returned from a 10-week hiatus due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic May 17. As it did at the previous 12 races, NASCAR series and team personnel in the infield will continue to operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan at Kentucky that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.

Bowyer arrives at Kentucky 13th in points after finishing 16th in last Sunday’s Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. Bowyer scored bonus points in the first two stages, but a caution just laps after he pitted under green in the final stage ruined what appeared to be a top-ten finish.

After Kentucky, only nine races remain in what is expected to be NASCAR’s 26-race regular season. A win will vault Bowyer into the NASCAR playoffs that begin in September and secure a spot in the NASCAR All-Star Race July 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Without a win between now and July 15, Bowyer will race in the NASCAR All-Star Open with hopes a good run will transfer him to the All-Star Race.

As a backup plan, he is relying on the online fan vote that will send the most popular remaining driver from the Open to the All-Star Race. Fans can cast their ballots daily for Bowyer at NASCAR.com/fanvote, or by clicking here.

A win Sunday would be historic for SHR, secure a playoff spot as well as an All-Star berth for Bowyer, and bring more attention to what could literally be a lifesaving cause for both humans and pets.

That’s a lot on the line.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 One Cure Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Everyone in the sport knows about Hall of Famer Tony Stewart, but what does Gene Haas bring to SHR?

“Gene’s the man. He’s the man who makes it happen at Stewart-Haas Racing. Obviously, everybody knows what Tony brought to the table at this thing. Gene is that rock behind all of us that enables us to go out and perform at our best.

“It’s never a question of, ‘What does it take financially, or anything else?’ It’s, ‘What does it take to win, what does it take to be better, what does it take to find victory lane?’ Those are questions that Gene Haas asks, and that’s it. He doesn’t talk about a good top-10 finish or that you can be proud of a good run. He’ll never say maybe that was a track you struggled at when you run fifth or sixth or something.

“It’s only about winning and winning only. It’s what he does in his industry. It bleeds through to his employees and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Kentucky Race Advance

Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Mustang team head to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for Sunday’s Kentucky 400.  Sunday’s start is Custer’s 20th career Cup Series start and his first endeavor in the series at the 1.5-mile oval in the Bluegrass State.

The No. 41 machine will sport the HaasTooling.com livery for Sunday’s 267-lap race. Team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, Haas Tooling was launched last month 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. Beginning July 1, HaasTooling.com products became available nationally. The cutting tools available for purchase on HaasTooling.com are even more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment.

Custer heads to Kentucky coming off his best career Cup Series finish captured last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After starting 30th the rookie driver was able to work his way forward and run in the top-five before ultimately finishing fifth. The result was captured in Custer’s first Cup Series start at the iconic 2.5-mile oval. The finish wrapped up a stellar weekend for SHR at Indianapolis. SHR’s Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the infield road course. SHR’s Kevin Harvick won the Brickyard 400 for back-to-back wins in the crown jewel event. SHR’s Aric Almirola finished third, just ahead of Custer in the top-five.

In Custer’s last five Cup Series starts at 1.5-mile tracks, he has a best finish of 12th earned May 24 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and a best starting position of ninth in the May 28 return to Charlotte.

“Kentucky is an interesting track because it’s a repave, which makes it really fast and you’re carrying a lot of throttle,” Custer said. “It’s also cool at times because you’re able to work a few different lanes and stuff like that. It’s a fast racetrack, that’s for sure, and I think that’s the fun part of it.”

The California native has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Kentucky. He has one pole award earned in July 2018 with a pole speed of 181.458 mph. He also earned one win at Kentucky last year with a margin of victory of 1.651 seconds over Christopher Bell. Overall at Kentucky, Custer has an average Xfinity Series start of 5.0 and an average finish of 10.8. He’s led 151 laps and has finished on the lead lap in four out of five Xfinity Series starts.

“I think some things apply from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series at Kentucky,” the HaasTooling.com driver said. “It’s the same racetrack and it’s the same feel. It’s just getting used to what’s different in the Cup car. The two cars are a good amount different, and you have to figure out those differences to make this car as good as you can. The track has the same characteristics, it’s just getting the car down.”

Custer’s first career Cup Series win would catapult him into the NASCAR All-Star Race rescheduled for Wednesday, July 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. However, the 22-year-old could earn the No. 41 Ford Mustang a spot in the race by winning the All-Star Fan Vote. Voting is open for one vote per person, per day.

SHR is still looking for its first win at Kentucky Speedway. The Sparta track is the only venue on the Cup Series schedule where the championship organization hasn’t notched a win.

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.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together.

 

COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What has been the biggest adjustment for you moving up to the Cup Series?

“The biggest thing has been getting used to the cars. They are obviously quite a bit different. When you don’t have practice time, it’s hard to get a really good feel for them, and know how hard you can push things in the corner. It’s been a lot of learning, and it has been hard. Also, the competition level, you’re racing against the best in the world and the field is super competitive, so you can’t make any mistakes.”

What kind of track is Kentucky compared to the others?

“Kentucky is fast. You’re going about wide open around there and can carry so much speed in the corner. It’s a fun track to go to and I’m looking forward to it. One of the biggest things I’ve done to prepare is to watch as many videos as I can. I’ve gone into the simulator to try and get a feel for it. The simulator doesn’t give you the feel of real life, but it’s a head start.”

What does success look like for you in your rookie season?”

“I think as many top-10 runs as we can get will help us. It’s obviously not been an easy season for a rookie, but it’s something we’re getting through. Having those good runs are important for confidence. Just try and work at it one step at a time and try and get better and better, and those runs will come. The competition level is so much higher here in the Cup Series. You have a lot more competitive cars than you have in the Xfinity Series, so any wrong move can really set you back a lot more in the Cup Series.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Kentucky Race Advance

Kevin Harvick heads to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval in Sparta with 1.5 tracks left to win at on the NASCAR schedule.

How is this possible?

After his victory on June 27 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Harvick still has yet to win at Kentucky, which made its NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2011. He also hasn’t won on the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, which first appeared on the schedule in 2018.

Harvick did win on the Charlotte oval in the 2011 and 2013 Coca-Cola 600, and the 500-mile fall race in 2014. So perhaps that explains the .5 of the 1.5 tracks.

If he gets the victory at Kentucky, the Charlotte roval is all that is left to conquer.

He’s come close at Kentucky, having finished in the top-10 in six consecutive races there from 2013 to 2018. He scored his first top-five when he came home fifth in 2018.

Harvick has scored two NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at the 1.5 mile Kentucky oval, the first coming in 2001 and followed up 13 years later in 2014.

And while he’s looking for his first Cup Series win at Kentucky, so is sponsor Hunt Brothers Pizza.

With more than 7,800 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry. Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin crust pizzas available as a grab-and-go Hunk perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with All Toppings No Extra Charge®. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Hunt Brothers Pizza is family owned and operated with more than 25 years of experience serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners. To find a Hunt Brothers Pizza location, download the Hunt Brothers Pizza app by visitingwww.huntbrotherspizza.com/app/

Hunt Brothers Pizza has partnered with Harvick for 11 years and last visited victory lane with him when he won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta. In 2019, Hunt Brothers moved up to the Cup Series as a primary sponsor for three races and, in 2020, will be on Harvick’s car five times.

Harvick is coming off last Sunday’s third career win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has four victories this season. He is 12th on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list and is just one behind

Lee Petty for 11th. Petty has 54 wins, while Rusty Wallace has 55 and Kyle Busch has scored 56.

Harvick is hoping he can heat up at Kentucky and score his first win at the 1.5-mile oval and keep moving up the wins list.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

Back in 2018, you said at that point winning had become a game. Since then, you’ve won 16 races, including last week. Is there any way to describe what it’s like to perform at a level like this?

“I think there are a lot of things that come into play. You have a manufacturer change that’s in the middle of that. But in the end, I think when you look at the root of the equation, it’s the team, right? It’s the crew chief and the driver that have been together, the engineer. We had one engineer move on, but we’ve had the same engineer with Dax (Gerringer). You keep adding little pieces to keep making that puzzle come together and fit together well. But experience plays a big role in this. I think for us, when we come to the racetrack, I know I have to be prepared. I know every guy on my team is going to be prepared and has done everything he can during that week leading up to that race to do 100 percent of his job. If you’re not prepared, you’ve let every person down because that’s the type of team we’ve been fortunate to put together over the last seven years.  Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing allowed us to do that from the beginning. It keeps progressing. You keep getting more and more details out of things because you keep the people together, and everybody believes in what I just said. If you don’t do 100 percent of your job during the week, you have let the rest of the team down because they have.”

Having a formidable opponent like Denny Hamlin, does it just make you want to come to the track and perform well? Does it put you in a more competitive mode than normal because of the level you’re both competing at right now?

“Yeah, it’s interesting for sure. We kind of went back and forth there, I was leading, then he was leading, then he has trouble. You have to kind of smile about it because it’s two teams performing at a tremendously high level right now. It has cycled around to the two of us for several weeks now. I think as you look at that, it definitely makes it fun. You want to have the upper hand on the who finishes in front of who ratio at this point, especially because if that’s the guy you’re racing and the team you’re racing, you want to at least stay even par. Those guys are good. They’re doing a great job. Obviously, leading the charge at Joe Gibbs. Our guys are doing the same. On days when you think you’re out of it, you keep grinding, all of a sudden you wind up in victory lane, those are the days you smile because you know everybody did their job and kept themselves in the game.”

Can you talk about the longstanding relationship with Hunt Brothers Pizza?

“Our fans are pretty loyal to the brands that are on our cars. Many of my pictures come from the standees in the store. People take selfies next to them. There are a number of reasons you have sponsorships – you want that brand recognition, the brand integration. Hunt Brothers Pizza is a very family oriented company and we’re a very family oriented group from the Harvick side of things. Those relationships you build through the years with brands that recognize and reflect what you believe in are few and far between. We’ve grown with the Hunt Brothers brand. They’ve grown with us and been very loyal to us and I think our fans are very loyal to us and the brand. It’s fun to see that brand recognition and that understanding of loyalty and partnership. I realized how many Hunt Brothers Pizza stores there are whenever I drove to racetracks after the hiatus.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Kentucky Race Advance

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Vote for Bacon Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta as the NASCAR Cup Series driver with the highest average finish in the last five races at 3.8. He’s ahead of Denny Hamlin, who’s next best at 7.2, and SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who’s third best at 8.0.

Almirola is on a string of five consecutive top-five finishes – earned at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he finished fifth, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where he finished third, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway two weekends ago, where he finished third and fifth, respectively, in the series’ first modern-era doubleheader weekend, and last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he finished third.

This is Almirola’s best season to date and the first time in his career he has earned consecutive top-five finishes. His five top-fives are the most he’s had in any single season during his nine-year full-time Cup Series career.

“We’re in a position now to where we can gamble a little bit and we can be a little more aggressive,” Almirola said. “We can be less conservative and not worry about points. Not that we’re going to throw caution to the wind, but we can certainly be more aggressive. A win is coming.”

Not only is Almirola looking for a win to lock himself in the NASCAR playoffs, he’s also looking to win this weekend to lock himself in to the July 15 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, or at least win the fan vote for an opportunity to race for $1 million. To aid the team’s endeavor to make the All-Star Race, Almirola’s longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods has given the fans an opportunity to “vote for bacon” in order to secure their driver’s eligibility.

“A vote for me is a vote for bacon,” Almirola said. “I’m not one to promote myself and ask for popularity or votes, so fans can vote for bacon for a chance to earn free bacon for a year and we might make it into the All-Star Race. Smithfield is always giving back to our fan base, as we saw in Talladega when we gave away bacon for life. The real goal is to win this weekend in Kentucky and still give away some free bacon. Now that’s a win-win.”

To “vote for bacon” and help secure Almirola’s eligibility in the All-Star Race, visit www.voteforbacon.com for a chance to win Smithfield bacon for a year, a private meet-and-greet with Almirola, and free SHR merchandise.

The No. 10 Ford driver sits ninth in the playoff standings for his career-best points position after 16 races. In his first two seasons at SHR in 2018 and 2019, Almirola was 10th in the standings after 16 races. It’s the best stretch of his career. The next comparable stretch was from October 2018 through March 2019, when he posted 11 top-10 finishes in 13 races, and his two finishes outside the top-10 were 11th at Martinsville and 32nd at Daytona.

Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 23 top-five finishes, 69 top-10s and 627 laps led in 332 starts. In addition to his recent string of top-fives, he has eight top-10s and has led 90 laps after 16 races this season.

Almirola continues to provide fans with content from his documentary series Beyond the 10, where they can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

While Almirola only has one top-10 finish at Kentucky, he proved last weekend at Indianapolis, where he had never earned a top-10, that past statistics don’t have an effect on the success the team has been able to achieve this year.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Vote For Bacon Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Is this the first time in your career that you go to the track every race weekend expecting to compete for a win?

“Yes, absolutely. For most of my career, I would show up at racetracks and just hope to have good runs. In the summer of 2018, I felt like we had a chance to contend each weekend and several opportunities slipped away. I probably had four or five races that year that I could have won. In 2019, quite frankly we struggled. I couldn’t find any consistency running up front. I’m thoroughly impressed with this Smithfield team. Every weekend, we expect to have top-fives.”

With Kentucky being a day race in the summertime, how much will the conditions affect drivers? 

“It’s going to be tough. It’s usually pretty hot already in the summertime. Kentucky, in the middle of the day, in the heat of the summer, is going to be challenging. The racetrack is going to be slower and slicker, but it will be fun. I love those conditions. The hotter the better, to be honest. A lot of my training pays off in those conditions. I don’t feel like I’m falling out of the seat. I feel fresh and ready to go, still, at the end of the race. I know some people dread racing in the middle of the day, but I don’t mind it.”

How confident are you that you’ll get a win soon, and to keep this momentum going?

“I keep telling the guys, if we consistently keep running in the top-five like this and continue to contend, we’re going to keep putting ourselves in position to win races and we’re going to capitalize on it. I’m looking forward to this next round of races. I’ve got top-fives at tracks that I would consider my worst racetracks, statistically. Now we’re going to some of the tracks that are probably my best, statistically.”

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Indianapolis Race Advance

Fourth of July weekend will look a little bit different for the NASCAR Cup Series as it heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 instead of the traditional 400-mile race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Prior to the 2020 season, Indy’s date was moved from September to the holiday weekend.

Cole Custer will make his first Cup Series start at Indianapolis in the No. 41 HaasTooling.com/Autodesk Fusion 360 Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, Haas Tooling was launched last month 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. Beginning July 1, HaasTooling.com products will be available nationally. The cutting tools available for purchase on HaasTooling.com are even more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment.

Custer’s No. 41 Ford Mustang will share the HaasTooling.com livery with Autodesk Fusion 360. Autodesk is a leading designer and supplier of software for the architecture, engineering, construction, media and entertainment, and manufacturing industries. Autodesk’s Fusion 360cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software brings enterprise-grade capabilities, data services, and a support network to teams of any size, uniting people, products, and processes across the product development process. The company empowers customers, like Stewart-Haas Racing, to push their boundaries and shape a thriving future.

What makes the HaasTooling.com and Autodesk Fusion 360 relationship unique is that Autodesk recently integrated the ability to directly purchase Haas Tooling components from their software. “Autodesk’s Fusion 360 integration of Haas Tooling directly within Fusion’s cloud-based platform, gives engineers, CNC programmers and CNC operators direct access to Haas’ proven cutting tools, data and presets,” said Adam N. Smith, Manager, Strategic Partnerships, at Autodesk. “Haas Tooling’s integration continues to support Fusion 360’s commitment to delivering end-to-end workflows with industry-leading partners.”

The Ford driver heads into Indy coming off finishes of 16th and 17th-place during last weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Those two starts were his second and third Cup Series starts at the 2.5-mile triangle and resulted in his best finishes there. Custer was the highest finishing rookie in Sunday’s Pocono 350 after SHR teammate Kevin Harvick won Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325.

Even though Custer is making his first Cup Series start at Indy’s 2.5-mile oval, the young driver likes that style of track based on his experience there in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. “It’s a track where the tires wear out a lot,” Custer said. “When you’re able to wear the tires out and able to slip and slide around a bit, I always look forward to doing that. I think Indy can be a good track for my driving style.”

Custer’s first career Cup Series win would catapult him into the NASCAR All-Star Race rescheduled for Wednesday, July 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. However, the 22-year-old could earn the No. 41 Ford Mustang a spot in the race by winning the All-Star Fan Vote. Voting is open for one vote per person, per day.

Custer has three Xfinity Series starts at Indy with a best finish of fifth. With the exception of being involved in an accident in his second start in 2018, all of his results have been in the top-10.  Overall, he has an average starting position of 7.3 and an average finish of 13.7 in the series at the historic track.

SHR has 35 starts at Indy, with three pole awards and two wins earned by former SHR driver Ryan Newman in July 2013 and Harvick last September. Overall, the championship winning organization has nine top-fives and 17 top-10s, along with 340 laps led at Indy.

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.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together.

 

COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com/Autodesk Fusion 360 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Indy is one of the marquee events each year because it’s the Brickyard 400. Is it a prestigious place to you?

“Indy is one of those places that when you walk or drive in, you’re in awe. You see the museum, the Yard of Bricks, the Pagoda, everything about it, there’s so much history there. It’s always an honor to race there with how historic the track is and all of the history that’s there. Everybody loves to go there because of that reason.”

You ran quite well at Indy in the Xfinity Series with the exception of an accident one year. Do you like racing at Indy? In the past, what has been the most challenging part for you?

“Indy is a difficult track with every corner being a little bit different. You have to hit your line right. It has extremely flat and fast corners, so it’s a track where you’re always slipping and sliding around with how hot it is in the summers. It’s a fun place to run around, but you have to hit your marks and be so perfect there.”