● Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) are going road-course racing for the second time in the last three events and the third time this season when they take to NASCAR’s longest racetrack – the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – for Sunday’s Cup Series event.
● Sunday’s 62-lap, 250-mile race will be Custer’s 93rd Cup Series start, his 12th on a road course, and his second at Road America. He qualified 15th and battled a loose-handling racecar to a 17th-place finish in last year’s first Cup Series appearance at the track in 65 years and just the second ever. Custer’s 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. He qualified sixth for his most recent road-course outing June 12 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and was battling for a top-10 finish in the closing laps before getting spun in turn 11 and having to settle for 21st.
● Custer will also make his third NASCAR Xfinity Series appearance of the season behind the wheel of the No. 07 SS Greenlight Racing Ford Mustang during Saturday’s Henry 180. In his 13 previous Xfinity Series outings on road courses, Custer finished outside the top-10 just once with a best result of third in this year’s March 26 race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. He was fourth in the 2018 Xfinity Series race at Road America and has two other top-10s there. Custer’s first Xfinity Series outing in the No. 07 Mustang this year resulted in a victory from the second starting position Feb. 26 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
● 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.
● Riding along with Custer and his SHR 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 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.
You’ve had some of your best outings at Road America when you raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and you and your fellow competitors enjoyed racing there for the first time in the Cup Series last year. How do you feel about heading back this year?
“I’m really excited for Road America. It’s a really prestigious road course in our country and I think it’s a place where, if you have any bad tendencies, it’s going to show up at Road America. You have so many different corners, there are so many hard corners, it just brings out some of the best road-course racing.”
How do you think the NextGen cars will fare at Road America this weekend?
“Obviously, the NextGen cars are very different, but we’ve seen so far that they’re very well suited for road-course racing. I think Road America is a track that’s really tough – it’s a really tough road course. Like I said, if you have any bad tendencies, they’re going to show up there. But with how well the NextGen cars race on the road courses, I think you’ll see a lot of guys doing well out there. It should be even more competitive than we’ve seen so far.”
One of the track’s nicknames is “America’s National Park of Speed,” and the fans there are known to be among the most passionate in all of motorsports. How do you like that aspect of racing there?
“Those cheese lovers, they might be out of control (laughs). It’s awesome to go up there. Just hardcore race fans, people who live and die by that racetrack, and I think it’s really cool to see people who are that passionate about the sport.”
At just over 4 miles, a lap around the 14-turn Road America layout is the longest on the Cup Series schedule, each lap somewhat of a “road trip” in itself. If you could go on a road trip with anyone, who would that be, and why?
“That’s a good question. I think a lot of people are probably going say Dale Earnhardt. He’s really iconic in our sport, somebody who I think would be fun to talk to about what it was like back when he first got going and how much the sport’s changed, and what he thinks about it now. I think it would be a really interesting conversation.”