Event: Food City 300 (Round 22 of 33)
Date: Aug. 18, 2017
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Layout: .533-mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest:
- The Food City 300 will mark Custer’s 27th career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his second XFINITY Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
- While the Food City 300 will be Custer’s second XFINITY Series start at Bristol, it will be his seventh overall start at the .533-mile oval in eastern Tennessee. Custer has three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and two NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts at Bristol. Custer’s career-best Bristol finish is sixth in the 2016 Truck Series race.
- Custer’s most impressive performance at Bristol was the 2015 Truck Series race, despite his 16th-place finish. He started fifth and led twice for a race-high 111 laps, holding off a handful of veterans including Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Kyle Busch. But when Custer was coming up on Spencer Gallagher to put him a lap down less than 40 laps from the finish, Gallagher spun right in front of Custer. With nowhere to go, Custer collided with him, all but ending his race.
- In Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Bristol in April of this year, he began the race from his career-best starting position of third and ran as high as third in the final stage before getting collected in an accident with less than 40 laps to go.
- Since 2013, across nine Camping World Truck Series starts and two K&N Pro Series starts, Custer has one pole, one top-five finish, four top-10s and 226 laps led at half-mile tracks currently on the NASCAR circuit.
- Custer’s best finish in the 21 XFINITY Series races run this season is fourth, earned June 3 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. It was his 11th career top-10 and fifth top-five and it equaled his best finish.
- Custer has earned six Rookie of the Race awards this season. Rookie of the Race awards are given to the highest-finishing XFINITY Series rookie at each race.
- Custer is third in the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year standings, 59 points behind leader William Byron and seven points behind second-place Daniel Hemric.
- Custer is sixth in the XFINITY Series driver standings, 258 points behind series leader Elliott Sadler.
- Custer has earned nine top-10s, four top-fives and has led 29 laps thus far in the 2017 season.
- Bristol added a chemical compound to the inside portion of its track surface to enhance the lower racing groove. This will mark the second year Bristol has applied the chemical to improve grip on the bottom of the racetrack.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
You had a strong start in your first XFINITY Series race at Bristol but were caught up in an accident with less than 40 laps to go. What can we expect in the Food City 300?
“Bristol was definitely one of our strongest runs this year and it was a shame to get caught up in a wreck at the end. We have some great notes to look at and we think we can make our Haas Automation/One Cure Ford Mustang even better this time around.”
Explain the difference between running in the day compared to night racing at Bristol.
“Honestly, I would just say it’s the atmosphere that’s different from day to night at Bristol. The track doesn’t change a ton, but Bristol is definitely one of the most intense night races of the year.”
Your first XFINITY Series race at Bristol was a Dash 4 Cash race, which limited the field to full-time time NASCAR Cup Series drivers with five years of experience or less. With seasoned veterans like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. running with you this weekend, do you think the competition level will change?
“Earlier in the year, there were still some pretty good Cup guys in the race and we ran hard with them, so we’re looking for the same this weekend. I expect to run the Haas Automation/One Cure Ford Mustang up front like we did last August. In my opinion, it helps us XFINITY drivers learn more when we have to battle with the Cup Series veterans.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
What will be the key to earning a solid finish in the Food City 300 at Bristol?
“Cole’s been great at short tracks his whole career. I like the idea of enhancing the bottom groove, so the track has more options for passing. We’re coming back to Bristol with more notes than we had before. We found top-five speeds there in April but, unfortunately, got caught in an accident when we were at the front of the field. As long as we stay out of trouble, I think we’ll have a good shot at it.”