Ford Performance NASCAR: Custer, Cindric and Briscoe Talk Watkins Glen


COLE CUSTER, No. 00 GoBowling Ford Mustang – A TOUGH DAY.  ANY SENSE FOR HOW YOUR BACKUP CAR IS?  “We did seven laps there, I think, and they were all really consistent and in the ballpark.  I thought I was pretty solid.  We did a great job and the car handled really good.  There’s gonna be so much strategy and so much going on.  It gets so crazy in these races that I think starting in the back is not gonna be the best, but I think we’ll be in the mix by the end of it.”

WHAT HAPPENED IN PRACTICE?  “I got on those curbs coming off of one and I just got loose and overcorrected it into the wall.  Those curbs are really slick in general, and starting the weekend out with out any rubber on them they’re even more slick, so I just misjudged it and I messed up.”

YOU SAID YOU WERE KICKING YOURSELF, BUT THIS STUFF HAPPENS.  “Yeah, it can happen, but it’s really disheartening like this.  I felt like our car was really good and just to do that really sucks.  Our guys worked really hard and I can’t thank them enough for getting the car ready.  I think our car is pretty good, it’s just a matter of being there at the end of the race.”

HOW WAS PRACTICE?  “The few laps we got I thought the car handled pretty good.  It’s hard to say.  There are so many things that are gonna happen throughout the race with strategy and wrecks and stuff like that, you just need to be there at the end.  Starting at the back isn’t going to be the best, but I think we’ll get there at the end.”

WILL YOU HAVE TO MAKE A TRACK POSITION PLAY AT SOME POINT?  “We’ll be able to make it through most of the cars, I feel like, but it is definitely gonna be hard to get through the top 10.  They get pretty good around there, so you might have to do something off strategy, yes.”

WHAT IS THE QUALIFYING GOAL?  “No matter what we have to start in the back, but we still have to pick pits based off of how we qualify.  I’m not gonna push it extremely hard, but I’m gonna go out there and run so we can have a decent pit to pick.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO OVER?  YOU HAVE TO PUSH IT AT SOME POINT?  “I guess just not push it so hard.  I think at that point I knew that I kind of messed the corner up being that wide on exit, and I just tried to save my lap by trying to gas it up and I just tried too hard.  I think I should have just gathered it up and then went on my way.”

DID SOMETHING BREAK ON THE CAR LAST WEEK AT IOWA?  DID YOU FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED?  “I think that wreck either I got in somebody’s oil or I just messed up again.  I don’t really know and we still don’t know.  I know a couple of guys were having problems at that point, so I don’t know if there was fluid on the track or not, but I can’t tell you for sure.  It all doesn’t really matter until the Playoffs, but you don’t want to get yourself too out of sync throughout this summer stretch, but I think we’ll be able to gather it up here and we’ll be fine.  We still have a whole race to run, so it’s a good thing to happen in practice, I guess, but I’m still pretty mad at myself.”

WHO DO YOU LEAN ON TO GET READY FOR ROAD COURSES?  “It’s kind of been a mix of a lot of things.  I’ve talked with Billy Johnson.  He works for Ford and he’s been a really good road racer.  I’ve worked with Ford on the IMSA stuff and that’s been a help, but it’s also just laps and in your own way learning it.  Sometimes it just takes laps to get better.”

DO YOU LIKE ROAD COURSES?  “Yeah, I really like road course racing.  It’s always hard coming up to this stretch because I’m excited to go road racing, but also at the same time you have no idea what’s gonna happen.  There are so many different factors with strategy and the wrecks that happen on restarts.  So many different things that could happen that you really don’t know what to expect, so I like road course racing, but you don’t know what to expect in this stretch.”

WHAT MAKES THIS TRACK SO UNIQUE?  “It’s just so fast.  It’s definitely the fastest road course that we go to and keeping your speed up is huge and getting good exits and just carrying that speed down the straightaways.”

HOW HAS MIKE SHIPPLETT TURNED THINGS AROUND?   “He’s been really good and brought a lot of experience to the team.  I think it’s my third year, so I’ve gotten a little bit better, but having experience he knows what adjustments work and don’t work and what he wants to bring to the race track and just everything overall has been great.”

ANY CLOSER TO FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING NEXT YEAR?  “Not really at this point.  At this point I’m just trying to figure out my backup car, I guess.”

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PRACTICE TODAY?  “I feel pretty decent.  I’m encouraged, but discouraged at the same time.  I feel like we’re really strong compared to who we’re fighting with in the points, but it’s gonna take a lot to catch Kyle Busch based off practice (laughing).  We’ll put our heads together overnight and see if we can put some more speed in our 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang.  Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with the progress throughout the day.  Our group obviously bring really good cars to this track and have had a lot of fun over the last couple of years here, so hopefully we’ll replicate that success between Blaney and myself.”

WHAT’S THE TOUGHEST PART ABOUT RACING HERE?  “I think it’s cool because you do have such a big mix of Cup drivers and XFINITY regulars who want to run this race.  I think the biggest challenge for me is to be able to outrun the 18 car with Kyle Busch in it.  I think that’s been the challenge for anyone racing against Kyle Busch here.  Maybe I can learn something from him.  It should be a challenge tomorrow, but it should be a lot of fun for us.”

HOW BEATABLE IS KYLE BUSCH IN XFINITY HERE ON A SCALE OF 1-10?  “Based off practice probably a two, but we’re on the same race track.  There are a lot of different strategies that can happen, and I think we’ll make a couple more adjustments overnight to probably close that gap a little bit.”

YOU HAVE AN IMSA START HERE.  DOES ANY OF THAT CARRY OVER EVEN THOUGH IT WAS WITH THE LONGER COURSE LAYOUT AND RUNNING THE BOOT?  “Running IMSA stuff here, that was the first time I ever ran here was IMSA stuff, running the boot, which, on the topic, I’d really love to see NASCAR run the boot here in a couple of years.  If there is any petition there, I’ll be happy to sign it.  It definitely helps to have that experience running the IMSA stuff here.  Between running the 6-hour race, the Michelin Pilot Cup there, it’s been a fun track.  It’s definitely high up on the list and it’s awesome to see the crowd that NASCAR brings to this race.”

WHY IS THE BOOT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?  “It’s more race track.  I feel like we’re kind of just short-cutting the course, short-cutting some good corners.  At the end of the day, selfishly, I feel like it adds more challenge to the race track.  Really, you’ve got two 90-degree corners, three 90-degree corners and a bus stop right now in our current layout and there is some really good, fun race track sitting back there waiting to be played with.  I’d really love to see that extended.  I think it would give the fans a little more excitement and I think it would give the people that go and camp back there more excitement, so I think it would be a nice addition.”

IF IT’S SINGLE-FILE IN THE BOOT, WHY ADD IT?  “I think in the laces you’ve got a pretty good passing opportunity back there.  I think right now you’d like to think the shorter layout would be more of a bullring setup, but there are so many high-speed corners here that back in the boot you have a lot more of those low-speed corners, a lot more of those corners where you can differentiate with new tires and different strategies.  If you run out of fuel, your fuel window changes similar to Road America.  I think it just plays itself to even better racing, and, like I said before, it’s more race track to play with.”

HOW WAS PRACTICE?  “I think our practice was good.  I don’t think we unloaded quite as close as we wanted to as far as getting the right balance in the car, but I feel like I said before, we’re really strong compared against the guys we’re racing in points, but I think to win the race tomorrow you’ve got to be better than the 18.”

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE HEADING INTO THE PLAYOFFS?  “I think the month of July was pretty rough for our team as far as executing races.  There were spurts of speed between New Hampshire and Kentucky and a lot of positive things that maybe we’ve been lacking at a couple of the bigger tracks in our program.  We got better throughout that month and throughout that stretch, but there were a couple mistakes I made during the month and a couple things we can improve on as a team and sometimes you’re just in a bad spot, so I feel like this stretch is gonna be great for us as far as being able to execute, being able to get those stage points, being able to get Playoff points, which I think is a huge thing moving into the Playoffs.  I feel like there’s a lot of guys that are capable of joining the big three, being the fourth guy if you will.  I feel like there are probably three or four cars that are capable of that, and when you get to the Playoffs points are at a premium, so if you can set yourself ahead with points it makes your life just a lot easier.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE THIS NEXT STRETCH WITH THREE ROAD COURSES?  “It’s great.  It’s great for our team and I think they’re great tracks across the country.  Mid-Ohio is one of my all-time favorite race tracks, so I’m really excited to get to go there next week.  Watkins Glen, it always blows me away how many people come to this race, not that you wouldn’t want to come to it, but it’s just cool that so many people get so excited about us in this market and at this track and road racing in general.  I’d really love to see us be able to go to more tracks.  There are some really cool places across the country that I think these cars would really be able to put on a good show, but I really do love this stretch.  Obviously, it’s my roots.  It would be like taking Christopher Bell or Chase Briscoe to a dirt track, so there is somewhat of a leg up there, but I feel like these cars are a little closer to being purpose-built for road racing than dirt racing.”

IS THERE A COMPETITION TO BE THAT FOURTH DRIVER WITH ALLGAIER AND BRISCOE?  “It’s hard to say.  I can’t tell you what those guys are thinking, but I don’t want to be part of it, I want to be better than them.  That’s the goal for me, and obviously that comes in steps and trying to find speed, trying to make sure I’m executing every race and every chance I get, and making that buildup count because pressure does ramp up as you get into the Playoffs and I feel like that’s where I’ve performed well in my career and I feel like that’s where our team really shines under high-pressure moments, so I feel like we have the right foundation it’s just finding the other pieces to be better than them and not just to be with them.”

HAS IT BEEN A SMOOTHER YEAR BEING WITH ONLY ONE TEAM THIS YEAR?  “Yeah, no doubt.  I know I’ve talked about execution a lot today, but at the beginning of the year my only goal was just to go out and execute races and get solid points and be consistent and that’s what we did, and that’s why we’re in a really good points position.  Now we can start to be a little aggressive.  We’ve got room to play with and maybe that forces me to make some mistakes, knowing that we have that cushion, but at the same time being able to really hone in on what makes speed out of our cars.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU CAN MAKE UP TIME ON THIS TRACK?  “I feel like there are two really technical corners and two corners that are really hard to connect throughout the lap and that would be the bus stop and the carousel.  Obviously, those two follow each other, so I think there’s a lot of time to be gained and lost there, at least overall lap time.  Now as far as being able to race well, I think you have to be realliy good through the esses and being able to follow people because if you’re not able to stay close through the bus stop, it doesn’t matter how good you are through there, you’re not gonna be able to make a pass or be close to put on pressure or apply pressure.  So I feel like those are the two things you kind of have to balance and fight.  I feel like there probably aren’t too many other cars that are as good as we are through the bus stop, so I think from an ultimate lap time standpoint, thinking about tomorrow morning in qualifying, I think we’re gonna be pretty strong, but I’m trying to focus more on how my car is gonna race.”

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 98 Ford Performance Ford Mustang – “Last night was probably the most frustrated I’ve ever been in a race car.  That was probably the first NASCAR race for sure where I felt I was dominant.  Even when I was in the lead I was just cruising and riding.  It was just unfortunate.  I didn’t want to pit, but I listened to team orders and obviously it didn’t work out.  In hindsight, 20/20, it could not have worked out the other way, so hopefully I’ll get to do it again next year and have a better result.”

AND NEXT YEAR NO ONE WILL PIT.  “Yeah, next year nobody is probably gonna pit.  I don’t know.  We have to do something about the caution situation and the line up situation.  It was so frustrating behind the wheel not being able to get the line up set.  There were times I was supposed to start three or four rows ahead of where I ended up starting and what not.  I don’t know, I wish in that race we could not count caution laps in the last 30 laps or whatever, maybe extend the race to 200 laps.  I think we need to make the stages longer.  That way there is more strategy in the race.  It’s so hard in 60 laps, that final stage, to make any ground up from the back, especially when we only race 20 laps under green.”

WOULD YOU SUGGEST THAT?  “I guess I’m suggesting that right now (laughing).  I just think the driver obviously deserve a chance to run back through the field.  The fans deserve to see a really good race.  That place has proven it can put on great racing.  I know it’s kind of out of the box of what NASCAR normally does of not counting caution laps, but I think there would be a really good idea.”

DID YOU HEAR THE FANS?  “Yeah, I could hear them from inside the truck.  It was pretty loud.  I think everybody was frustrated.  I’m sure NASCAR was even frustrated because a lot of the drivers weren’t doing what they should have been doing anyway.  There were guys that were literally running 18th trying to restart fifth.  It was kind of dumb how some drivers were trying to take advantage of it, but I think it was frustrating for all parties and hopefully we can go back next time and fix it.”

DO YOU WANT ANOTHER YEAR IN XFINITY BEFORE CONTEMPLATING A MOVE UP TO CUP?  “Yeah, I think so.  Even if I could go get in a top-level ride right now in the Cup Series I just need a lot more work and a lot more experience.  There are a couple tracks on the schedule I’ve never even been to still yet, so I’ve got to get a lot better.  Being able to go to these places for a second and third time in these XFINITY cars will be a big benefit.  Iowa was the first time I ran a race this year for the second time and that was our best race of the season, so I for sure need to get more experience before I feel like I’m ready for Cup.  I would love to go do it, but I think another year in XFINITY next year would be a big benefit for myself.”

WHAT DID IOWA DO FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE?  “It was big.  We weren’t the best car, obviously.  Bell was the best car, but we were clearly the second-best car all day long.  It definitely was a good confidence builder.  It was good for our whole team.  Our team is really, really young and inexperienced in some ways, so it was nice for them to prove to themselves that they could win as well and hopefully it was the perfect time.  I feel like it leads well going into the Playoffs, but I think it’s perfect for leading into these races.  These are the races where you can do more strategy than you can anywhere else and get out of the box.  Say we’re running fifth in a stage and the top four pit, we’re gonna stay out and try to get a Playoff point, whereas in the past we would have probably pitted with them, so I think it’s perfect timing as far as strategy goes for these races and hopefully it’s a good confidence-builder for all involved.”

YOU HAVE QUALIFIED WELL RECENTLY, TOO.  WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS OVERALL IMPROVEMENT?  “And the seat time, I think.  Just knowing how to drive these XFINITY cars, what to expect  The first part of the season I didn’t know what the car should be feeling like going into the race and just how much I could be aggressive in it and hustle it.  I think as I get seat time and more experience it’s only gotten better and easier, so hopefully that will continue throughout the year.”

DID YOU SAY YOUR TEAM IS RUNNING FOR THAT FOURTH SPOT?  “Yeah, I think we’ve been in the conversation, honestly, the whole year.  At the beginning of the year we were really good and ran six or so races in the top five consecutively.  I felt like we were in the conversation.  We weren’t the lead guy, but we were definitely in the talks for it.  These last couple of weeks we’ve started to get our way back into that conversation.  We’re still not that head-over-heels favorite, but I feel like we’re certainly a lot closer.  We’ve been a lot more competitive throughout the weekend.  We’re not practicing 15th and qualifying 15th.  We’re getting stage points now, so I think that is good for us and hopefully we can be that fourth guy.”

HOW WAS YOUR PRACTICE TODAY?  “I wasn’t tired.  Honestly, I definitely wanted to be higher up on the speed charts, but I was way more competitive than I thought I would be for never being here.  I don’t know where Kyle and those guys ended up, but I was trying to compare myself with Allgaier and the guys that are consistently good road racers and even Cindric, and I felt like I was within a tenth or two of those guys, so I was happy with it.  Honestly, I think running Eldora last night helped just because how you run these road courses it’s elbows up, you’ve got to be aggressive and hustle them and that’s what you had to do last night, so honestly I think it bodes well for going and doing that race.”

HOW MUCH SLEEP DID YOU GET?  “I got here at 5:30 this morning and woke up at 10.  I was probably the last guy to the track, but I got here pretty early I guess you could say last night and got over here.”

THE PLANE WENT FROM ELDORA TO CHARLOTTE AND CHARLOTTE TO WATKINS GLEN, WHICH WAS DIFFERENT FROM THE ORIGINAL PLAN OF ELDORA TO WATKINS GLEN.  “Yeah, it was supposed to go from Eldora to Watkins Glen, and then there was gonna be no flight at all and I was gonna drive through the night and get here about 9 this morning, but luckily they changed that.  There was a couple of other guys in my scenario, so we went from Eldora.  The airport was about an hour drive from the race track, so I think we landed in Statesville at 2:30 and flew straight to Watkins Glen, and then our hotel happened to be over an hour away, so it was definitely a long night, early morning.”

ON A SCALE OF 1-10 HOW BEATABLE IS KYLE BUSCH HERE?  “He’s gonna be hard to be.  I mean, he’s one of the best ever, and he’s in a really good race car too, and he’s just a really good race car driver.  He’s beatable just because strategy can obviously not go his way and he can get caught up in anything, but he’s gonna be the guy to beat.  I mean, he is consistently almost every weekend, so I know our team knows we’re not racing him for the win.  We’re gonna do everything we can to get the best finish and if we can take one strategy-wise, then we’ll try to do it.  But I think we have to keep in perspective who we’re racing against, especially with my experience right now.”

WAS THE BOTTOM AT ELDORA AS DIFFICULT AS IT LOOKED?  “Yeah, the top was just so fast last night.  The cushion was so good and the rest of the track was so slick.  In year’s past, especially the last two years when I’ve ran it, it hasn’t been like that.  We’ve had multiple options and that’s the whole reason I didn’t want to pit.  I knew the top was so good that it was gonna be really hard to pass those guys.  The problem is guys can run a foot of the cushion, so you can’t drive around the outside of them.  They’re just hanging there. You can’t turn off the cushion because then you’re in the slick, so that made it really hard.  That’s why I didn’t want to pit, but the inside I was scraping the left-front headlight just off the inside wall trying to get any moisture I could just because the track was so slick.  When they water a lot of that water goes to the bottom and just sticks there.  I think last night played into my dirt background.  A lot of people, especially in that truck race, don’t understand where the moisture is at and sometimes you have to go 10 miles an hour slower through the corner to be capable down the straightaway and I was able to do that last night and get a couple of positions.”

HAVE YOU EVER FELT AS MUCH LIKE A PINBALL AS YOU DID LAST NIGHT?  “It was terrible.  I was already frustrated that we pitted.  I knew that we were still gonna be OK just because we were so fast.  When I was in the lead I was running 60-70 percent, so I knew we were good.  But in that first wreck Ross spun out and I checked up and it was like the whole field behind me didn’t even know we were wrecking and just pile drove me into him.  That was frustrating, but everybody has seen those races where guys have had destroyed trucks and still be fine, so I thought we were gonna be alright.  I think I was fifth and the caution was out as we came into turn one and off of turn two I think the 02 spun out and the same thing again.  I was lifting to miss it and somebody got in the back of me and spun me into him and I had to restart 16th, so all that track position I made up went away again.  And then it was like nothing could go our way.  In the end, Ben got into me.  I was trying to be pretty aggressive and was probably more sideways than a lot of guys were running, but I was doing that so I could hit the cushion with my right-rear and cut across that bottom and slide guys into three, and he was just so close to me that as half sideways as I was he had nowhere to go and just barely tapped me in the left-rear and turned me around.”

HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DID YOU GET AFTER WINNING THE ROVAL?  “I’ve never realliy liked road courses.  I’ve liked driving them, I just never understood how to get those final tenths.  Even this weekend, I don’t understand how Kyle can go that fast.  Cindric is really good and winning the Roval obviously builds a little bit of extra confidence, but I still have to get a lot better on these road courses if I’m gonna run up front consistently and I’ve got to get better for sure.”

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