COLE CUSTER – 2017 Charlotte II Race Advance

Event:               Drive for the Cure 300 (Round 29 of 33)
Date:                 Oct. 7, 2017
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
Layout:             1.5-mile oval


Cole Custer Notes of Interest 

  • The Drive for the Cure 300 is the third of seven races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs and the last race in the series’ first playoff round. Four drivers will be eliminated at the conclusion of the race, narrowing the field to eight drivers. Those eight drivers will compete in three more races before the playoff field is whittled down to just four drivers for a winner-take-all championship battle in the season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Cole Custer is fourth in the XFINITY Series playoffs with 2,093 points, 14 points behind series leader Justin Allgaier and one point behind third-place Elliott Sadler. Custer has accumulated two bonus points for the second round of the playoffs, earned by his two stage wins in the Sept. 23 race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. 
  • The Drive for the Cure 300 will mark Custer’s 34th career XFINITY Series start and his third XFINITY Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
  • Custer is competing for his fourth-straight top-10 and his third-straight top-10 at Charlotte. He has earned seven top-10s in the last eight races and two top-10s in the first two playoff races. 
  • In Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Charlotte in May 2016, he led one lap around the 1.5-mile oval and equaled his career-best finish of fourth. He was the highest-placing XFINITY Series regular behind Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano. In his second race at Charlotte this past May, Custer ran in and around the top-five before securing his seventh Rookie of the Race award with a seventh-place finish. 
  • In 11 XFINITY Series starts and nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at 1.5-mile ovals, Custer has four top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. Custer has earned two top-fives this season at 1.5-mile tracks – Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on April 8 (fifth) and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta on Sept. 23 (fifth) – and finished in the top-10 at three other venues – Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 4 (10th), Charlotte on May 27 (seventh) and Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois on Sept. 16 (seventh).
  • Custer’s best finish in the 28 XFINITY Series races run this season is fourth, earned in the 11th race of the year June 3 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The result equaled Custer’s best career XFINITY Series finish, which he earned in his series debut at Charlotte in May 2016.
  • Custer has six top-fives and 15 top-10s in 33 career XFINITY Series starts.
  • Custer’s best qualifying effort in the 28 XFINITY Series races run this season is third, earned three times – April 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, June 10 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. Custer has 20 top-10 starts and nine top-five starts this season.
  • Custer is third in the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year standings, 57 points behind leader William Byron and 17 points behind third-place Daniel Hemric. Custer has earned seven Rookie of the Race awards this season, two having come at 1.5-mile tracks (fifth at Texas and 11th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). Rookie of the Race awards are given to the highest-finishing rookie.


Cole Custer, Driver Q&A


What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“Coming back to Charlotte is pretty important because you have all of the shop members around and all of their family and friends. It’s an important race for everybody and everyone wants to step up their game up to win here. I wouldn’t say Charlotte is my favorite track to race at, but it’s a track where I’ve had some really good runs. There’s no reason why we can’t do that again. I don’t think there’s a better track we could go to as a cutoff race for the second round. I think we’re in a good position now and another decent finish will lock our Haas Automation team into the next round.” 

What is a lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway like?  

“It’s a really edgy racetrack. Age-wise, it’s in the middle of a grippy track and a really worn-out track. It has a lot of tiny, high-speed bumps throughout the track that will upset the car. It’s a really challenging place to get around. Honestly, it’s one of the most difficult tracks I’ve been to. You have to hit your marks just right, but it’s a fun track. Last race, when they put the VHT down, it was a challenge to get used to. Now that we understand the way the compound works, we’re more confident with it, but it still throws you a curveball when you get out there.” 

Some of your best finishes in your XFINITY Series career have been at 1.5-mile tracks. Why is that?

“I think we’ve unloaded some great cars at the 1.5-mile tracks, which seems to be our strong suit this year. The team has given me some great Haas Automation Ford Mustangs that have helped me adapt to the track faster than I normally would. The team has done a great job with the cars and it has given me the opportunity to race up front. I think we understand and have a really good package going to the intermediate tracks like Charlotte. I think they are definitely our strong suit right now.”

 What is the strategy with playoff racing?

“It’s kind of a mix. I think you want to get as many stage points as you can in the first stage because you want to keep buffering yourself away from the cutoff line, but you want to make sure you’re setting yourself up for a win because that’s a lot of bonus points, as well.”

You’re headed to Charlotte after earning another top-10 the race prior at Dover. How does it feel?

“It’s crazy, honestly. I think the last few races have kind of come together for us, but we have to keep our heads down and focus on not just being first in the first round, but being first at Homestead.”


Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A


What is the strategy heading into Charlotte?  

“We have some buffer room now to go out there and contend for a win. After our performance at Dover, we can race a little harder and compete for those bonus points and a win to help us out in the second round.” 

What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?  

“I’ve attended every race at Charlotte for as long as I can remember. For that reason alone, it makes the track special to me. The fact that I can sleep in my own bed over the race weekend is just a bonus.”