● Cole Custer and his No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) are set for their fourth of six road-course races this season when the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
● The 24-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, will be making his 97th career Cup Series start during Sunday’s 82-lap, 200-mile race, and his second on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis circuit. He qualified 10th for this event a year ago and was vying for a top-five finish in overtime before getting caught up in a multicar accident.
● Custer has one other start at the facility, when he drove to an impressive fifth-place finish in the 2020 Brickyard 400 on its iconic 2.5-mile oval. It was his first of two top-fives during his Cup Series Rookie of the Year campaign, which he followed up with a dramatic victory the following weekend at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
● Sunday’s race will be Custer’s 13th road-course start in the Cup Series. He qualified 10th and finished 15th in the July 3 race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He posted stout qualifying efforts at the previous two road-course races – third for the March 27 event at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, and sixth for the June 12 race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway – but late-race, multicar chaos foiled his bids for finishes deep inside the top-10 at both events. Custer’s best Cup Series finish on a road course was ninth in the October 2020 race on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.
● In NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition, Custer has top-10s in all three of his road-course outings, 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 (N.Y.) International 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 had a solid run in last year’s race on the Indianapolis road course, and you’ve had strong runs in the previous three road-course races this year. What will it take to put you over the top this weekend?
“We had a really good day at Indy last year, until the end. We had a top-five car, but luck just wasn’t on our side because we got involved in a wreck during overtime. The same could be said for our races at COTA and Sonoma this year. Road courses have turned out to be a strong suit for us with this NextGen car and I’m confident we’ll be able to run up front again this weekend. We just need a little luck to finally go our way when all the craziness happens in those final laps.”
Is it possible to create your own good luck?
“That’s the million-dollar question. You’ve got to make your own luck. You’ve got to have a good car, you have to be fast to where you can keep yourself up front and out of the mess, and then you’ve got to be smart. We’ve been able to do all of those things on the road courses, so far. When there are those bad situations, you’ve just got to know when to play your cards right and hope that you’re not in a bad spot. It seems most of the time there’s just nothing you can do, but I’d like to think we’ll start coming out on the good side of these situations. It all has to even out, right?”
If you could have the keys to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a day, what would you do?
“I’d probably just go over and see all the trophies and all the history in the museum there. It’s one of the coolest things. They have some special stuff downstairs that I think would be really cool to see, all the historic stuff that they have there. Having the first (Cup Series) road-course race there last year was huge, it was historic, and it was a crazy race. Indy is obviously the most historic track maybe in the world, definitely in the United States, so I’m really looking forward to going back.”
How do you like sharing the weekend with IndyCar?
“I think it’s cool. IndyCar is totally different from what we do, but to see the two forms of racing come together is really awesome, and it’s a great thing for the fans who are loyal to one or both of our series.”