● After equaling his season-best finish of ninth during last Sunday on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Cole Custer and his No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to the Irish Hills for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
● Sunday’s 200-lap race will be Custer’s 98th career Cup Series start and his fourth on the 2-mile Michigan oval. In a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader weekend during his 2020 Rookie of the Year season, he posted finishes of 34th and 25th, respectively. Custer bettered those results during last year’s return to the Irish Hills with a 23rd-place finish.
● In three NASCAR Xfinity Series appearances at Michigan from 2017 through 2019, all in the No. 00 SHR Ford, Custer never finished outside the top-12 or qualified worse than seventh. His best outing was a third-place finish from the fourth starting position in 2018. He finished 10th from seventh on the grid in 2017, and finished 12th from sixth on the grid in 2019.
● Custer led 18 laps in his lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan in August 2016, when he was behind the wheel of the No. 00 Haas Automation-sponsored entry for JR Motorsports. But an accident 17 laps from the finish foiled his victory bid.
● 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’re headed to Michigan after a solid, top-10 run, your second of the season. You came just one spot short of another top-10 earlier this season on Michigan’s sister track, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Are you feeling like you have some momentum heading into the weekend?
“I’m looking forward to getting to Michigan after the weekend we had in Fontana back in February. It was just the second race with this new NextGen car and I was really happy with the progress our team made. We made really good adjustments all day and got our car better. We got a little off there at the end and I wish I did a few things different on the restarts but, overall, it was a solid day and we got some stage points. Hoping we can go to Michigan and improve on that this weekend. It’s one of those tracks where it’s tough to get everything right, but we’ve definitely got notes to go from and a little momentum on our side. We’re getting down to these final races of the regular season and guys are all fighting for those last spots in the playoffs, so things can get crazy pretty quickly.”
With the regular season winding down, what can you look back on as some of the positives so far this year?
“We’ve shown speed at times. We went to Bristol and sat on the pole. That was really cool for my first Cup pole. I’m not a dirt guy, so it was pretty surprising to me. But it was cool to have that. It was fun to go to Fontana and win the Xfinity race. And also the road courses, we’ve been pretty fast, ran top-10 at all of them but just didn’t have the finishes. Martinsville, we were good. It’s just a matter of having it all come together.”