Event: Powershares QQQ 300 (Round 1 of 33)
Date: Feb. 17, 2018
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway
Layout: 2.5-mile oval
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
- The Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway is the first of the 33-race NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule and the first of six restrictor-plate races in the 2018 season.
- Custer has competed in seven career restrictor-plate races, including four last season in the XFINITY Series – twice at Daytona and once each at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He also competed at Daytona and Talladega once each in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016, and once at Daytona in ARCA, also in 2016. His best Truck Series finish was 24th at Daytona and his best ARCA finish was 10th at Daytona.
- Custer won the pole for the 2016 ARCA season opener at Daytona, becoming the youngest pole winner in Daytona history among the ARCA, Truck, XFINITY and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
- NASCAR XFINITY team Biagi-Denbeste joined forces with Stewart-Haas Racing over the offseason. The XFINITY team is now formally recognized as Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-Denbeste. Biagi-Denbeste’s track record at restrictor-plate races includes back-to-back superspeedway wins – 2016 at Daytona and 2017 at Talladega.
- Custer’s teammate at Daytona this weekend is reigning Talladega XFINITY Series winner Aric Almirola, who will pilot the No. 98 Smithfield Ford.
- The No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang is powered by a Roush Yates Engines FR9 Carb V8 engine. In 2017, Roush Yates won three of the four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series restrictor-plate races and one XFINITY restrictor-plate race.
- Custer scored his first career XFINITY Series win at the 2017 season-ending Ford EcoBoost 300 Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His nearest competitor, three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., was a distant 15.405 seconds behind. Custer led three times for a race-high 182 laps to set a record for the most laps led in a single XFINITY Series race at Homestead. He earned a perfect driver rating (150.0) by sweeping both stages of the race and taking the victory. The win punctuated a strong season that included seven top-five finishes and 19 top-10s with 301 laps led.
- Custer finished the 2017 XFINITY Series fifth in the final standings.
- Custer competed in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Daytona Jan. 26 and earned a third-place finish – his first IMSA podium.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
Do you think the superspeedway program has improved from 2017?
“I’m confident our speedway program will show much better speed this season. Last year, we were still trying to figure out what parts and pieces we still needed to fix. Now, we’re just fine tuning and have been able to fluff and buff our Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Daytona. We have had much more time to prepare and Biagi-DenBeste has had so much success in the last few years at the superspeedways. They will be a great addition to our team. Between their race notes and Roush Yates Engines power under the hood, we are in good shape.”
How different is this January compared to January 2017?
“It’s crazy looking around at our shop knowing that just a year ago there was nothing but a broom. Now we’re a fully functioning XFINITY team that knows we can and will compete for a championship. We’re already in a much better spot than we were last year. We have prepared all offseason for this moment and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”
Do you think the competition will be easier or more difficult this season?
“There are a lot of guys who are going to be good out there. Even though Byron is out, we still have some tough competition. We really just have to focus on ourselves and compete against ourselves. We have to keep improving every week and I think, if we do that, we’ll win quite a few races and compete for a championship.”
What is racing around Daytona like?
“It’s a complete adrenaline rush. You’re on the edge of your seat every single lap because you never know when someone is going to slip up. When you’re tight in the pack, you have to stay focused every second because one little mistake can take out 20 cars. It’s a fun race, though, because it’s different from what we do every single week. You really just have to stay out of trouble and be there in the end to take home the trophy.”
You were able to spend time road-course racing last month in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Daytona. Did that better prepare you for the season?
“It was an incredible experience. It helped knock the rust off a little before the season with more road-course experience. It was a really cool opportunity that Ford presented to us to help us get to know each other a little better. I think it was a great race to help us get prepared for the season. It’s always cool when you get to race in something different from what you’re used to.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
Do you feel better prepared for Daytona than last year?
“We’re a lot more prepared. We have probably 10 more cars put together, so we’ve had more time to work on our cars and fine tune all of them. I know we’re going to bring a much better Haas Automation Ford to Daytona than we did last year. We’re still working on a few things with our flange-fit bodies and what direction we need to go with those, but we’ve had three wind-tunnel dates now and we’re pretty geared up for the season.”
You battle the entire year and don’t get a win until Homestead. Are you headed into the season with more confidence?
“We have a lot of confidence going into the season, but there are a lot of the teams we’re competing with that have worked hard over the offseason just like we have. We can’t lay down and get comfortable. We have to keep improving on what we’ve got. We feel good about this year and the way we ended last year.”
How has Cole grown over the past year?
“Over the course of the season, I think we all grew together. Cole got better at what he was doing and started understanding more of what he wanted from the car. We worked with the simulator over the offseason and we’re still doing a lot to better prepare him. I think we’ll be better starting this season than we were finishing last season.”