Event: DC Solar 200 (Round 4 of 33)
Date: Saturday, March 18
Location: Phoenix International Raceway
Layout: Mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
- The DC Solar 200 will mark Cole Custer’s ninth career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his first career XFINITY Series start at Phoenix International Raceway.
- While the DC Solar 200 will be Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Phoenix, it will be his seventh overall start at the mile oval. Custer has three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and three NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts at Phoenix. Custer’s best Truck Series finish is third in 2014 and that same year he won the K&N Pro Series race. Custer also has a K&N Series pole at Phoenix, earned in 2013 when he first competed at the track.
- Since 2015 across eight XFINITY Series starts, 42 Camping World Truck Series starts and 29 K&N Pro Series starts, Custer has five wins, six poles, 13 top-fives, 22 top-10s and 919 laps led at tracks that are a mile in length or shorter.
- In last Saturday’s XFINITY Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Custer finished 11th to earn rookie-of-the-race honors. Custer is competing for rookie-of-the-year honors in the XFINITY Series.
- Custer is currently 10th in the XFINITY Series championship point standings, 37 points behind series leader Elliott Sadler.
- Custer’s best finish in the three XFINITY Series races run thus far is 10th, earned in the second race of the season March 4 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was his third top-10 finish in eight career XFINITY Series starts.
- The DC Solar 200 is one 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 DC Solar 200. This means the only NASCAR Cup Series drivers competing in the DC Solar 200 are Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney. Theoretically, this gives regular XFINITY Series drivers a better chance to win.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
How do you like racing at Phoenix?
“The surface at Phoenix is a lot like Vegas. You get a lot of grip and it lays a pretty good amount of rubber. It’s a really flat track so you get a lot of speed. It’s really fun to get around, and there’s that cool dogleg on the backstretch, so it’s definitely a fun place to race.”
You were the highest finishing rookie last week at Las Vegas and you have a successful track record at Phoenix. Does this give you a level of confidence going into the DC Solar 200?
“For sure. We’re starting to get everything sorted out on our team and I think we’re going to head into Phoenix really strong with a lot of confidence. I’ve done fairly well there in the past, so hopefully that translates to this weekend.”
What do you like most about racing at shorter tracks like Phoenix?
“It’s always good when you’re all the way out of the gas and you have to use the brake and throttle. There’s a lot more work you have to do, so it’s just more fun to and more natural.”
What are your expectations for this weekend at Phoenix?
“We’ve been solid the first few races with top-10 cars, so I think we definitely have a shot at continuing these solid runs and progressing. We’re getting better and better each week and sorting everything out so, hopefully, we’ll be in the top-five soon.”
With fewer NASCAR Cup Series drivers entered at Phoenix, do you see a greater opportunity to run up front and win? Or do you prefer racing against Cup Series drivers so that your learning curve is accelerated?
“I’m definitely a little split on the Cup driver debate. I think it’s great for us young guys to run against the Cup drivers because we can learn a lot, but I can also see from a fan’s point that racing might be a little better without them. I think all of us XFINITY regulars are especially looking for strong runs when they aren’t in the race, but it makes it even better when they are and you’re able to beat them.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
What are your overall thoughts as you head to Phoenix?
“Phoenix is a really fun track. I know Cole does well at the shorter tracks like Richmond and Loudon, so I’m confident in his abilities to race well in Phoenix. What’s difficult about Phoenix is that it’s considered a short track with a dogleg in the back and higher speeds since the repave, so you’ve got speeds similar to an intermediate track. We have to set up a car in between the two.”