Event: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 (Round 7 of 33)
Date: April 22, 2017
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Layout: .533-mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest:
- The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will mark Custer’s 12th career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his first XFINITY Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
- While the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will be Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Bristol, it will be his sixth overall start at the .533-mile oval. 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 best race at Bristol was the 2015 Truck Series race, despite his 16th-place finish. Custer started fifth and led twice for a race-high 111 laps, holding off such veterans as 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 crashed into him, all but ending his race.
- 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 six XFINITY Series races run this season is fifth, earned in the sixth event April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. It was his fourth top-10 and second top-five finish in 11 career XFINITY Series starts. Custer was the highest-finishing XFINITY Series regular and rookie, earning him his second Rookie of the Race award of 2017.
- Custer is the second-highest-finishing rookie in the XFINITY Series season and is third in the Rookie of the Year standings, 27 points behind leader William Byron.
- On April 11, Custer and Bristol Motor Speedway general manager Jerry Caldwell unveiled two new Kid Zone locations on the concourse level of turns two and four.
- The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 is the second of four Dash 4 Cash races on the 2017 XFINITY Series schedule. This means drivers will race for a $100,000 cash bonus. Each of the top-two full-time XFINITY Series drivers from Stage 1 and Stage 2 will become Dash 4 Cash-eligible in the final stage.
- As a Dash 4 Cash race, no full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers with five or more years of experience are entered in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. With the only NASCAR Cup Series drivers competing in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 being Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson, regular XFINITY Series drivers are expected to have a better chance to win.
- Bristol Motor Speedway added a chemical compound to the inside portion of its oval 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
After being the highest-placing XFINITY Series regular in the series’ last race at Texas, do you feel you and your team have built momentum going into Bristol?
“Absolutely. We had a quick car in Texas and I think our Haas Automation Ford Mustang will be fast in Bristol. We have a smart program with a lot of great people.”
Are you a fan of the new bottom groove at Bristol?
“I was sad when they put it down last year because I felt like I figured out the top groove really well the year before, but it’s a new challenge that we’ll have to adapt to. Hopefully, I can learn how to run the car down there. The bottom groove will take Bristol back to what it used to be back in the day, so that’s actually pretty cool.”
How will the Dash 4 Cash play into your race strategy?
“Drivers are probably going to put a lot of focus on the stage points and placing in the top-two at the end of the stages. It will definitely affect our strategy going in, but our ultimate goal is to just stay up front at the end of each stage.”
What does it take to be successful at Bristol?
“You definitely need some speed, and the main thing is that you just have to stay out of trouble, which is hard to do because you’re going so fast. Having a good car going in is crucial to performing well at Bristol.”
Why do you like racing at Bristol?
“It’s something completely different than what we’re used to. There’s so much banking – it’s a concrete track and the grooves usually move around a bit. It’s something that’s unique and hard to figure out but, once you figure it out, it’s really rewarding. It’s one of the coolest places we go. Some of the characteristics from the local short tracks I grew up on apply at Bristol. It’s really quick and you don’t have to deal with as much dirty air, but it’s definitely hard to get used to the high banks and the large amount of rubber buildup. “
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
What is your plan for a successful race at Bristol?
“Cole’s been great at short tracks his whole career. I like the idea of the bottom groove so the track has more options for passing. I think Cole’s going to excel at Bristol. We’re going to lean on our Cup guys some and see what has worked for them in the past. It’s not a superfast track, so it’s not as aero-dependent. The difference in aero balance between the XFINITY and Cup cars doesn’t really show up on that track, so you can really use their setups more at Bristol than at an intermediate track.”
What do you think about Bristol being a Dash 4 Cash race and how will that play into your strategy during the race?
“Our downfall in Phoenix was that we didn’t qualify well and that’s going to be really important for the Dash 4 Cash races. We have to put in a good qualifying effort to have a shot at it. There are not enough laps to get in those positions to run for a win when you’re toward the back.”