● Cole Custer and the No. 41 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) welcome back Autodesk a co-primary partner for the third time this season when they take to the 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway oval for Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400. San Francisco-based Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), a leader in software applications for the engineering, manufacturing, construction, architecture, media and entertainment industries, kicked off its fifth season with SHR May 1 at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway, then returned for the June 12 race at its hometown Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. After Saturday night’s race, Autodesk returns to Custer’s No. 41 Ford for back-to-back races Sept. 17 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Sept. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth before appearing one final time Oct. 9 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.
● 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 helps 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.
● Saturday’s 160-lap race will be Custer’s 101st career Cup Series start and sixth on the Daytona oval. His 11th-place finish in last year’s season-opening Daytona 500 is his best result at the iconic track. He finished 20th in this year’s Daytona 500.
● In NASCAR Xfinity Series competition at Daytona, Custer made six starts from 2017 through 2019, all in SHR Fords. He had a best start of third in the August 2018 race, and best finishes of 14th in the 2018 and 2019 openers, both seasons culminating with runner-up finishes in the series championship.
● Eleven days after his 18th birthday, Custer started the 2016 ARCA Menards Series season opener and his first career race on the Daytona oval from the pole. He led a race-high 42 laps before bringing the No. 54 for car owner Ken Schrader home 10th.
You’ve got Autodesk back on your racecar for Saturday night’s regular-season finale. Talk about that, and your overall thoughts about the race.
“It’s the last chance for any driver without a win to race their way into the playoffs, and it comes in a race that anybody can win, so that makes things really interesting for everybody. Daytona is just a special place any time your race there, and it will be cool to have Autodesk on our car again. 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.”
You’ve now had three races with the NextGen car on superspeedway-style tracks this year. What have you learned about what it will take to win at Daytona on Saturday night?
“I think the biggest thing about the superspeedway racing this year is this new car is really all about getting the pit stops good and making sure you stay with the lead draft. If you’re the last car in line, it’s really easy to lose the draft. So I think that’s been the biggest thing. At the end of the day, it’s been really similar. You’re still able to push really hard, you’re still able to draft and run three-wide, and four-wide at times, so it puts on good racing. You just want to make sure you can stay with the lead draft.”
With one more playoff spot available for a first-time race winner this weekend, do you expect the racing will be more aggressive than it has been all year?
“I think so, for sure. Everybody knows that you have to win to make the playoffs, so everybody without a win is going to do everything they can to try and get that win and they’re going to be aggressive. Daytona gives a lot more players a chance to win, so it’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to be extremely aggressive and who can make it to the end of the race.”
Can you hang in the back to stay out of trouble and still expect to work your way to the front in the closing laps?
“I think it just depends on your car. If you’re not very comfortable with your car and you’re in the middle of a hornet’s nest, yeah, I think you’re going to bail out because there’s going to be a great chance you’re going to get wrecked. But if your car’s handling well and you’re able to go up toward the front, you’re probably going to go up there and try and keep yourself out of the mess.”