Strong Cup Rookie Class Ready To Roll

Cole Custer

Cole Custer, 22, is one of six drivers in a highly-heralded, much-decorated 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year class. Custer, who will drive the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, has finished championship runner-up the last two Xfinity Series seasons and is making the move into NASCAR’s big time with some of his former and fiercest Xfinity Series rivals.

“I think it’s nice to just kind of have everybody in the same boat,” Custer said, allowing a smile. “Everybody is in the same situation, but at the time same time, you’re racing 38 other guys out there, so it’s a matter of focusing on yourself and doing what you need to do to get better and focusing on your own plan. I can’t be focusing on those two or those three trying to figure out what they’re doing.”

Instead, Custer said he’s trying to soak up as much information as possible from his three teammates – 2014 Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, former series runner-up Clint Bowyer and veteran Aric Almirola. All three of those drivers qualified for the 2019 Cup Series Playoffs.

“I’ve talked with Kevin a lot,” Custer said. “I talked with Kevin a lot through my Xfinity stuff also and he’s been extremely helpful and one of the most helpful people, I’ve ever talked to for sure. But even in our post-practice meeting (over the weekend) with Clint and Aric, and I ask those guys for advice and they’re extremely open also.

“If I can get advice from any of those guys it’s going to be huge. You just try to be a sponge as much as you can.”

Custer ran three Cup races last year getting his feet wet with consistent finishes of 25th (Las Vegas-1), 26th (Pocono-1) and 26th (Richmond-2).

He was 14th fastest in Sunday’s Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying session – second best among the rookie drivers. Longtime NASCAR rival Christopher Bell posted the top speed among the six rookies – with a lap, ninth fastest in the No. 96 Leavine Family Racing Toyota.

The rookie class will be evenly divided among the two Bluegreen Vacation Duel races on Thursday. Bell, John Hunter Nemechek and Quin Houff will be in Duel 1. Custer, two-time Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick and Brennan Poole will race in Duel 2.


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