Event: VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (Round 27 of 33)
Date: Sept. 23, 2017
Location: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
- The VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta will be the first race of 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs. The playoffs are divided into three rounds with the first two rounds consisting of three races apiece and the final, single-race round being the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four drivers are eliminated after each round to ultimately establish four finalists to decide the championship at Homestead. Drivers automatically qualify for the next round with a win in the current playoff round, with the remaining spots determined by the point standings. At Homestead, the top-finishing driver among the four finalists wins the title.
- Custer will begin the 2017 XFINITY Series Playoffs from the eighth seed with 2,005 points, just 20 points behind leader William Byron.
- Last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Custer piloted his Haas Automation Ford Mustang to his best overall XFINITY Series performance after leading the field four times for 41 laps – ahead of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon. Custer also earned 17 stage points and was the highest-finishing XFINITY Series regular in Stages 1 and 2.
- In Custer’s first XFINITY Series race at Kentucky a year ago, he ran in and around the top-10 until he was struck by a lapped car while exiting his pit stall, ultimately ending his day on lap 138 of the 200-lap race.
- In 10 XFINITY Series starts and nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at 1.5-mile tracks, Custer has three top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. Custer has earned three top-10s this season at 1.5-mile tracks – Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (fifth), Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (seventh), Atlanta Motor Speedway (10th) and Chicagoland (seventh).
- Custer is third in the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year standings, 60 points behind leader William Byron and 16 points behind second-place Daniel Hemric. Custer has earned six Rookie of the Race awards this season, three of which have come at 1.5-mile tracks – fifth at Texas, seventh at Charlotte and 11th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
- Custer’s best finish in the 26 XFINITY Series races run this season is fourth, earned in the 11th race of the year June 3 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. It was his 15th top-10 and fifth top-five and it equaled his career-best finish in 31 career XFINITY Series starts.
- Custer’s best qualifying effort in the 26 XFINITY Series races run this season is third, earned twice – April 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and June 10 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Custer has 18 top-10 starts and eight top-five starts this season.
- Custer has been the highest-finishing XFINITY Series regular in four races this season – Charlotte, Dover, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Texas.
- Custer has earned four top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and has led 70 laps thus far in the 2017 XFINITY Series season.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
This is the first round of the playoffs. How do you feel and what is the game plan?
“I think it’s finding a balance of not being too aggressive and not putting yourself in a bad position in the points due to a wreck or an unfavorable finish. Also, everyone is going to be racing hard and you can’t finish 15th every race. It’s finding the balance of how hard you want to race and what times you want to push it and what times you don’t. I don’t think there are any tracks in the playoffs that I don’t really look forward to. It’s really hard to believe how far this Haas Automation team has come this year. The guys in the shop have worked extremely hard all year to get us where we are now and we just need to execute.”
After running your best overall race of the 2017 season at Chicagoland, do you feel that the team has built some momentum heading into the playoffs?
“I think we have a lot of momentum after last week. We had a really fast Haas Automation Ford Mustang all weekend and we were able to race well, too. That was probably the most fun I’ve had in a stock car running up front with the Cup guys. As a team, we all learned a good amount last week, so I think we can have a strong weekend at Kentucky. Our mile-and-a-half program has been great this year and we had a decent run at Kentucky earlier this year. I’m looking forward to a consistent run this weekend.”
Explain racing around Kentucky.
“It’s a different place because it’s almost like Texas Motor Speedway, but with opposite corners. Turns one and two are pretty fast where you’re almost wide open on the throttle. Turns three and four, you have to use the brake and have to turn the center pretty good. It’s just two different ends that you have to deal with at Kentucky, but it’s an awesome track to go to.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
What are your thoughts about heading to Kentucky this weekend after a solid run at Chicagoland?
“You’re always excited to get back to the track after having a good run. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum up to get the playoffs started on a good note. We’re bringing back (Chassis No.) 970, which is one of our oldest cars that we seem to run really well with every time we race it.”
A first-year XFINITY Series team makes it to the playoffs. Was this to be expected from the Haas Automation team?
“We expected to make the playoffs. Now, we need to execute everything right for the next six weeks. If we are fortunate enough to make it to the final round, there will be a lot of excitement headed to Homestead.”
Does your strategy change from the regular season?
“We won’t change anything we’ve been doing all year. Usually, when you change your normal routine, mistakes happen. We have a strong team and a good driver. As long as nothing happens beyond our control, we should end up with a good finish to the season.”