Event: Sparks Energy 300 (Round 9 of 33)
Date: May 6, 2017
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
Layout: 2.66-mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
- The Sparks Energy 300 will mark Cole Custer’s 14th career start in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and his first XFINITY Series start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
- In the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega, Custer claimed the pole and led two laps in his first and only start at the 2.66-mile oval.
- Custer’s best finish in the eight 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 13 career XFINITY Series starts.
- Custer is third in the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year standings, 28 points behind leader William Byron and 23 points behind second-place Daniel Hemric. Custer has achieved two Rookie of the Race awards this season.
- Custer is 12th in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, 141 points behind series leader Elliot Sadler.
- Custer’s best qualifying effort in the eight XFINITY Series races run thus far in 2017 is third, earned in the eighth race of the season April 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Custer has five top-10 starts and two top-five starts this season.
- The Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega is the second of four restrictor-plate races on the 2017 XFINITY Series schedule. The other restrictor-plate tracks are Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (two races) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (one race).
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
What are your thoughts on Talladega and restrictor-plate racing?
“I think it’s fun because it’s something different we do in the season, but it makes it tough because you can do everything right and still get wrecked. We’re bringing a more competitive car than we had in Daytona, so I think we’ll have a lot more speed. There are some things that the drivers have to play into at Talladega, but a lot of it has to do with the draft. I don’t think I’m terrible at drafting, but I definitely need to get better.”
It seems each week your team has unloaded some fast Haas Automation Ford Mustangs. Has your new partnership with Ford and Stewart-Haas exceeded your expectations?
“Absolutely. We’ve had some great speed out of our Haas Automation Ford Mustangs, just not the finishes we want. If our luck turns around here soon, hopefully we can put Stewart-Haas and Ford in victory lane where they belong.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
What are your thoughts and expectations on racing at Talladega?
“I’m really looking forward to Talladega. We had a car that raced well in Daytona, but we got collected early in an accident. We didn’t get to run long enough to really show what we could do. We were probably a little conservative with our setup going into Daytona with Cole being a rookie and not knowing what to expect. This weekend, we’re focusing on a little more speed in the car and sacrificing some handling. I think we should have a pretty fast Haas Automation Ford Mustang. Our Roush Yates engines were fast in Daytona, so that will be a huge help to us this weekend. Hopefully, we can get the monkey off our back and make it through the wrecks to get a decent finish.”