● Cole Custer and the No. 41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) welcome back Autodesk as primary sponsor for Sunday’s Save Mart 350k NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. It will be a hometown race for San Francisco-based Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), a leader in software applications for the engineering, manufacturing, construction, architecture, media and entertainment industries, which kicked off its fifth season with SHR May 1 at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.
● The AutoDesk partnership with SHR is more than skin deep. The team utilized Autodesk’s Fusion 360 design and manufacturing software extensively to create lightweight, but strong, components for its fleet of Gen 6 racecars. Autodesk’s generative design capabilities and its Fusion 360 software helped designers and engineers quickly find optimal solutions to design problems, like SHR’s brake pedal revision in its Gen 6 racecars, as chronicled in this video. The new pedal accounted for a 32 percent reduction in weight with a 50 percent increase in stiffness, with the optimized design being realized by Fusion 360. The entire project took just two months to complete – from initial design to simulation, additive manufacturing of the pedal, testing and finalized part. Just as importantly, it was all delivered within two weeks of the needed race date.
● Also riding along with Custer and his SHR Mustang this weekend 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 in July 2020. 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.
● Sunday’s 90-lap, 350-kilometer race will be Custer’s 91st Cup Series start, his 11th on a road course, and his second on the 2.52-mile, 12-turn Sonoma circuit. The 24-year-old native of Ladera Ranch, California, started 23rd and finished 20th in his Cup Series debut at the track last year. His best previous Cup Series finish on a road course was ninth in the October 2020 race on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval en route to that year’s Rookie of the Year honors.
● In his 11 road-course outings in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2017 through 2019, Custer finished outside the top-10 just once with a best result of fourth in the 2018 race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
● Custer also has top-10s in all three of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series outings on road courses, all at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. His best was his most recent, a second-place run from the pole with a race-high 39 laps led in the No. 00 JR Motorsports entry in 2016. He also made three starts apiece on the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition, with best finishes of third in the 2016 East Series race at Watkins Glen after having qualified on the pole there the previous year, and fourth in the 2019 West Series race at Sonoma.
● Custer arrives at Sonoma 27th in the driver standings after his 29th-place finish in last Sunday’s inaugural Cup Series race at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois, near St. Louis.
You’re welcoming back Autodesk as your sponsor this weekend for what is the company’s home race. What are your thoughts about this weekend?
“I’m really looking forward to it. I think the road courses have been something that’s always kind of a wild card and it’s always kind of an equalizer for the field. For us, it’s a great opportunity to have a solid run and hopefully find ourselves with a chance to win by the end of it. Sonoma is a really technical place that I enjoy. Last year’s race was my first there in a Cup car, so there’s going to be a little bit of learning, but it’s just one of those places where you have so much elevation change. It’s just a fun racetrack to run and we have Autodesk on the car this week. It’s really cool. I ran an Xfinity race for them and we won with them and, from there, it’s just been a great relationship and it’s been awesome having them on the car. We use their software a ton at the race shop, to be able to design parts and do different things, so they’re a huge part of what we do.”
This weekend takes you back to your home state for the third time this year. Any special thoughts on that?
“It’s still about 10 hours from my home because Northern California is so far from Southern California but, whenever I go back to California, it’s always special. I’m always trying to see family and it’s a homecoming. But going to Sonoma I ran last year’s Cup race there and I’ve run a few K&N races there and I’ve always loved it. It’s just one of those places where it’s fun to kind of slip and slide around and be able to go up and down the hills and hit the curbs. It’s just one of those places I think every driver loves to go to.”
Are there any things you can apply to this weekend that you learned during your previous visits to Sonoma?
“Like I said, it’s just such a technical racetrack and it’s definitely nice to have some laps around there. There’s so much (tire) fall-off and so much you have to do to try and make it around those slick corners. It’s not an easy place to get around, so having those laps definitely help, but I’m sure in the NextGen car it’s going to be a little bit different trying to figure out how you’re going to make your way through those corners and be patient. It’s going to be a lot of learning pretty fast.”