|● It’s not necessarily an iconic paint scheme from the rich history of NASCAR Cup Seriesracing that Cole Custer’s No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will sport in Sunday’s Goodyear 400. Coincidentally, this year’s featured event of the annual NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway will be just the eighth race run on Mother’s Day in Cup Series history. Fittingly, Custer’s colorful paint scheme will be, in essence, a 130-mph Mother’s Day card from SHR co-owner Gene Haas and his siblings, addressed to their mother Margaret. |
● A Haas family photo from back in the day will adorn the rear quarterpanels of Custer’s No. 41 SHR Mustang, and the door panels will feature a recent photo of Margaret, a fixture at West Coast NASCAR races over the years who turns 96 next month. Red and pink flowers accent the paint scheme throughout, while “Happy Mothers Day” appears on the hood and rear of the racecar. And the image of a special greeting to Margaret serves as the background on all sides of the racecar. It reads: Happy Mother’s Day Mom. You’re a fabulous, strong, and beautiful woman. Your never-ending love taught us to work hard, be kind, fair, and generous to others. Your love for family and God is always on display. Our family get-together traditions are always memorable. You love watching NASCAR, and have always been proud of your four children and grandchildren. You’ve dedicated 43 years of your life being a religious school teacher and Principal. You were a great role model to the many students you taught. We love you, respect you, and thank you. Love, from your kids, Bob, Gene, Joanne, Darlene.
● For the 23-year-old Custer, Sunday’s 400-mile race marks the 51st Cup Series start of his career and his fourth on the 1.33-mile, egg-shaped oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 12th-place finish in the Southern 500 last September was the best of his three Darlington outings in 2020.
● The native of Ladera Ranch, California, was credited with the victory in his most recent NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington in 2019 after finishing second the previous year and ninth in 2017, all behind the wheel of the No. 00 SHR Ford. In the 2019 race, he crossed the finish line .602 of a second behind the apparent race-winner Denny Hamlin. But Hamlin’s racecar was disqualified after a ride-height violation was discovered in postrace inspection, giving Custer his eighth of nine career Xfinity series victories. In the September 2018 Xfinity Series race at Darlington, Custer was runner-up to Brad Keselowskiby .738 of a second.
● After last Sunday’s 24th-place finish at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Custer arrives at Darlington 23rd in the Cup Series standings, 290 points behind leader Denny Hamlin, and 59 points behind the 16th and final playoff position.
● Returning to Custer’s No. 41 Ford Mustang for SHR is team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, Haas Tooling, which was launched 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. HaasTooling.com products became available nationally last July, and the cutting tools available for purchase at HaasTooling.com have proven to be even more important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment. 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.
● SHR revealed last month that Code 3 Associates returns to the No. 41 Ford Mustang for the July 11 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Code 3 Associates has been a hero to animals for more than 30 years. If disaster strikes, Code 3 will deploy its Animal Rescue Team to help in emergencies like hurricanes, fires and floods. From now until June 20, fans have the opportunity to have their name featured on the No. 41 SHR Ford and help Code 3 continue its rescue efforts by simply visiting Code3.cc/Cole41 and making a $41 donation.
|Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Mother’s Day Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing|
| You’ll be sporting a very special paint scheme in Sunday’s Throwback Weekend race at Darlington. What are your thoughts about piloting a rolling Mother’s Day greeting to your team owner’s mom?“Having something a little bit different for Darlington in terms of a paint scheme is pretty cool. Obviously, throwback weekend has always been about honoring the drivers and teams that have grown the sport, but now we get to honor the mothers that have gotten us here as well. Without our mothers and their sacrifices, we wouldn’t be where we are and it’s nice to be able to show our appreciation.” |
We know Margaret tunes in when she can and she’ll be watching this weekend, but what was it like to have her at the track in the past?“Margaret was my favorite person to see at the track. She always has a smile on her face, wants to know what you’re doing, what you’ve been up to. She brings a smile to your face anytime you see her, she just shares so much joy. When she was able to show up, you’d feel how genuine the support was and how proud she was, so we’re going to do all we can to keep the car up front and give her a good race.”
What is your typical experience racing on the unique, egg-shaped Darlington oval?“Darlington is just a gritty racetrack, obviously old-school with running up by the wall. It’s a worn-out racetrack, so there’s a lot of slipping and sliding around. It has a ton of history, too, being the home of the Southern 500 and it’s always a lot of fun to see all of the creative paint schemes and other things that make Throwback Weekend such a special event. It’s a place you really look forward to going to and trying to win that race.”
Darlington was where you first raced last year after the 10-week hiatus brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you remember most about that return to racing?“It was definitely different. I think the strangest thing was how quiet it was before and after the race without the fans. But other than that, it was kind of back to normal – what became our new normal – driving to the track and climbing in the car. But it was definitely strange not having the fans there. The fans make the sport. I think we all realized when we went to Darlington for that first time without any fans, it was just weird. It was not the same without the fans. Having fans, with the energy that they bring, that changes the whole weekend. We’re going to have fans there this weekend, and we’re even going to have guests allowed in the garage for the first time since before the pandemic. I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully we get everyone back soon.”
Was the level of difficulty even higher that first weekend back because of the nature of the Darlington track, and a race that’s notoriously difficult even with hours of track time beforehand?“It was definitely a little bit difficult because it was Darlington and we had no practice or qualifying but, at the same time, you come in there having done as much preparation as you could. Get yourself in the mindset of which different lines you’ll be running, working the dirty air and things like that. It would’ve been nice to test some of those things during practice, but I feel like we all did a pretty good job of showing up to the racetrack and being ready. It was a little tough at the start of the race after the long break and no practice or qualifying, but I felt like we fired off pretty good and the guys had built a great car. It was well-prepared for the race. It’s just not having the opportunity to work out those little things that you get to work through in practice, you just have to jump into it. I think I adjusted to it pretty quickly. The biggest thing that I had to get acclimated to was just how I was going to run a car that I’d never run before, and the different lines and how I was going to work the racetrack and do everything involved with that. It was just a matter of getting used to the car.”