|● Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to Phoenix Raceway this weekend to bring down the curtain on the 2021 season with Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale.|
● The 312-lap race around the desert mile oval will be Custer’s 75th Cup Series start and his fourth at Phoenix. The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, scored his first nine career Cup Series top-10s in the March 2020 Phoenix race, which was just his seventh career Cup Series start, en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors. He followed up that ninth-place finish with another near-top-10 in this race a year ago, which was derailed by an unscheduled pit stop to replace a loose wheel during the final stage. He finished 28th. Last March at Phoenix, another top-10 bid was ruined when contact from behind in the closing laps sent Custer into the wall and relegated him to a 31st-place finish.
● In six NASCAR Xfinity Series outings at Phoenix from 2017 through 2019, all behind the wheel of the No. 00 SHR Ford, Custer started in the top-four and finished in the top-eight in each of the last five, with a best result of second from the second starting position in the November 2018 race. He finished .810 of a second behind Justin Algaer in that race after recording four of his six career Xfinity Series laps led at Phoenix.
● In Custer’s three career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series outings at Phoenix, he has a best finish of third in the November 2014 race in the No. 00 Haas Automation entry behind winner Erik Jones and runner-up Matt Crafton.
● Custer dominated the February 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix in the No. 00 for owner Bill McAnally. He qualified on the pole and led a race-high 62 laps en route to his third of four career K&N Series wins.
● After his 23rd-place finish last Sunday on the half-mile, paperclip-shaped oval at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Custer arrives at Phoenix 26th in the driver standings.
● Returning to Custer’s No. 41 Ford Mustang 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.
|Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing|
| One last race – your thoughts as you and the HaasTooling.com Ford team head to Phoenix to close the season?“Phoenix has always been a track I’ve loved going to. They’ve made it interesting the last couple of years with the PJ1 (traction compound) they put down and how you work it and how you’re going to set your car up for it. It’s something that’s always changing, so you’re constantly having to readjust your car to figure out how you’re going to run and what you need to have to run on it good. I think we ran solid there last year. We had some bad luck there in March. Even though we didn’t unload how we wanted, we were in position to fight for a top-10 at the end and then got turned into the wall. It was a shame to have something like that happen after we worked so hard to get our HaasTooling.com Mustang running to where we were in the mix. It wasn’t the finish we deserved, for sure, but we’ve always looked forward to going there and we’ve had success there in the past, so it’s just a matter of trying to build on what we did there the last time. It’ll be nice to have practice and qualifying for the first time in a really long time, so it’ll give us a chance to fine-tune things and eliminate a lot of the guesswork we would have to do otherwise.”|
What’s the main thing you and the team would like to accomplish this weekend?“This weekend is definitely a weekend where we’re really looking to put it all together. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year with some really solid runs and some that weren’t. But we’ve worked hard all year long and never gave up. It’s a weekend we definitely want to work hard through practice and qualifying and get a finish we can feel good about through the offseason and give us some momentum going into next year with the new car.”
You scored your first career Cup Series top-10 at Phoenix last year in what was then your seventh career start. How big of an accomplishment was that for you?“It was a huge finish for us. It was a huge boost to have a really solid day and a fast Mustang. We overcame obstacles all weekend, and it really helped us continue to carry that all through the rest of the year. I think we got better most every single race in one way or another, so it was something that gave us the momentum to do that. We came back to Phoenix in November and didn’t get the finish we wanted, but we left there with the Rookie of the Year title, which obviously was special. It was definitely a rookie season with a lot of peaks and valleys, results-wise, and a really interesting season to be a rookie with no practice, no testing or qualifying, so it was a lot of just learning on the fly, but I think we all managed it very well. It’ll be good to get back there this weekend.”