Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Mustang team venture a little more than four hours to the north and west from their Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) headquarters to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500. Custer will make his first Cup Series start at the Tennessee track and 12th career Cup Series start.
The No. 41 Ford Mustang will sport the colors of co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, HaasTooling.com, for the short-track event. Haas Tooling was launched a few weeks ago as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas’ cutting tools are sold exclusively online at HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users.
Custer spent the last week honing his craft at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the season’s longest race – Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, and Thursday night’s Alsco Uniforms 500k. His first Cup Series start at the 1.5-mile track last Sunday netted Custer a 12th-place finish after recovering from falling one lap down earlier in the race. He earned an 18th-place finish in Thursday night’s 500-kilometer – 310-mile – race after battling a loose-handling No. 41 Mustang.
The Cup Series has completed one race at a short track this season at Phoenix Raceway in March, where Custer and the No. 41 team finished ninth. The series will run a similar package this weekend at Bristol and the HaasTooling.com driver hopes to capture another top-10 this weekend.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Custer had six consecutive starts at Bristol from 2017 through 2019. Five of those resulted in top-five qualifying positions. The California native has two Xfinity Series pole awards at Bristol – April 2018 and 2019. Custer has four top-10 finishes in the series at Bristol, with 31 laps led. Custer also has three Bristol outings in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Bristol, all starting in the top-10 with a pair of top-10 finishes and 111 laps led.
While the NASCAR season has resumed, the sport also continues to do its part during the COVID-19 pandemic. SHR’s partnership with Novant Health continues to expand. So far, SHR has helped transport and deliver millions of face masks for Novant, in addition to building intensive care unit webcam carts. Now, SHR is now providing 25,000 square feet of property adjacent to its shop in Kannapolis, North Carolina, for Novant’s partnership with Zipline, the world’s only national-scale, on-demand drone logistics service. Zipline will deliver medical supplies via its fleet of drones to Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers. Click here to download b-roll of site build, drone delivery and interviews.
In SHR’s 70 starts at Bristol, the team has earned two pole awards and two victories. The championship team has 10 top-fives, 29 top-10s and 873 laps led at the high-banked, concrete oval.
Haas Automation, founded by Haas in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together. Custer was the third-highest-finishing rookie at Charlotte Thursday night and looks to improve his position Sunday afternoon at a track where he’s run well in the past.
COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve wrapped up a couple races at a mile-and-a-half track. Do you feel like you learned a lot, and can apply some things to the other mile-and-a-halves coming up?
“We’ve learned a ton as a team over the last four races and running the 550 horsepower package. I think I have a better understanding of the cars now and it’s just applying it in the future.”
In the Xfinity Series, you’ve done really well at Bristol as long as you haven’t had something happen. Why do you think you excel there, or what makes it suit your driving style so much?
“Bristol has been a good track for me in Xfinity. It’s a track that has always come a little natural to me, I feel like. I like the feel of it and being able to move around in the lanes. It’s a lot about keeping momentum. The bottom is about hooking the line. Sunday it’s just a matter of running a lot longer race and a lot of cars to pass, which makes it chaotic.”
You had a ninth-place finish at Phoenix earlier this year. You’ll run the same package at Bristol. Do you favor the 750 package?
“I think the 750 horsepower package is definitely something that’s more natural to me because it’s similar to the Xfinity car. A lot of the stuff I did in the Xfinity car transfers over to this 750 package in the Cup Series. It doesn’t do that with the 550 horsepower package we run at a lot track in Cup. So I’d say I’m more comfortable and used to the 750.”
We’re going back to a little bit of a traditional NASCAR schedule with one race per week. Are you looking forward to going back to more of a traditional schedule? Or were you really starting to like the two races per week schedule?
“I think it was nice to kind of mix it up with the mid-week races. It was interesting and I think it might get used in the future some. I don’t think it’s something you could do all year long though. You need to have a break at some point. It’ll be nice to go back to our week by week schedule to catch our breath and look at what we learned to apply to future races.”