● Event: Richmond 400 (Round 9 of 36)
● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 18
● Location: Richmond (Va.) Raceway
● Layout: .75-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 400 laps/300 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 155 laps / Final Stage: 165 laps
● TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) and the reigning NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, heads to the familiar surroundings of Richmond (Va.) Raceway, where Sunday’s Richmond 400 will be his 12th career start on the .75-mile oval in a NASCAR touring series. It will be Custer’s 48th career Cup Series start and third at Richmond, where he finished 14th in his last visit in September.
● In NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, Custer’s seven career starts at Richmond is more than he’s had at any other track. Best among those starts was the April 2019 race, when he qualified fourth in the No. 00 SHR Ford, led a race-high 122 of 250 laps and took the checkered flag 2.639 seconds ahead of runner-up and fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric. He followed that up with a third-place finish in that year’s September race for his fourth Xfinity Series top-six in seven Richmond starts. Custer also started on the pole and led 43 laps en route to a sixth-place finish in the April 2018 race in his SHR Ford, and scored a sixth-place finish in his Richmond debut in the Xfinity Series, driving the No. 5 JR Motorsports entry in the April 2016 race.
● Custer’s first two Richmond outings came in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2013 and 2014. The first year, he started and finished third after leading 24 of 100 laps, then came back the following year to qualify second and lead a race-high 52 of 100 laps en route to his fourth of four career victories in K&N Pro Series competition.
● After last weekend’s 18th-place finish on the half-mile oval at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Custer arrives at Richmond 24th in the Cup Series standings, 242 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
● Returning to Custer’s No. 41 Ford Mustang for SHR 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 last July, and the cutting tools available for purchase at HaasTooling.com have proven to be even more important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment. 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.
Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
Sunday marks your 12th career start at Richmond between the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and K&N East Series. What’s been your favorite Richmond memory?
“Definitely winning there in the Xfinity Series a couple of years ago. It was my first short-track win in the Xfinity Series and it meant a lot because we were worked pretty hard to try and get our short-track stuff better, and it’s not an easy track to get around. So, it meant a lot to win that one.”
You’ve run at Richmond so much during your career, are you immersed in footage and data from your previous runs there to figure out how you’re going to get around there this weekend?
“Yeah, that’s every weekend for me. I look at old races and try and talk to Kevin (Harvick) every weekend to find out what he’s looking for. He’s been a huge help the last couple of years. All of my teammates have been. It’s been tough, though, going straight to racing with no practice or qualifying. You can look at as much film and data as you want, but you’re still missing the experience of actually being out there. You know what you need to work on, but you really don’t learn as much until you’re actually out there on the track.”
Now that you’re not the “new guy” anymore among the Cup Series drivers at SHR, how would you describe the way the organization has impacted your continued evolution as a driver?
“It’s huge. To be able to work and race at Stewart-Haas Racing, we have some of the smartest people, we have some of the best drivers. Obviously, being able to lean on Kevin Harvick, I probably asked him every single week last year questions about how to get around tracks. Having those kinds of resources is just invaluable and it’s one of those things where you’re just very grateful to be surrounded by so many great people.”
How did last year prepare you for this year now that you have a year under your belt?
“This year is totally different. Last year, you were just trying to not hit the wall on the first lap and try to figure out your way around the racetrack. This year, you’re trying to perfect things and try to take everything to the next level, where you can be at the front more consistently and figure out ways to do that. So it just comes with a year under your belt. You’ve got notes to look at and you’re trying to fine-tune everything.”
You were the youngest driver to win in the Truck Series, the youngest to win in the Xfinity Series, you’ve already won in the Cup Series. Having those kinds of accomplishments, how do you manage to stay so grounded?
“It hasn’t been difficult, really. For me, I’ve always been the quieter guy, for the most part, so I haven’t been out there trying to broadcast myself or anything like that. It’s one of those things where you just try and make yourself better every single time on the track. There’s always something you can do to make yourself better, so you just have to keep reminding yourself of that.”
No. 41 HaasTooling.com Team Roster
Primary Team Members
Driver: Cole Custer
Hometown: Ladera Ranch, California
Crew Chief: Mike Shiplett
Hometown: Amherst, Ohio
Car Chief: Tony Cardamone
Hometown: Bristol, Virginia
Engineer: Davin Restivo
Hometown: Ashboro, North Carolina
Engineer: Scott Bingham
Hometown: Lawrenceville, Georgia
Spotter: Andy Houston
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Front Tire Changer: John Roselli
Hometown: Terre Haute, Indiana
Rear Tire Changer: Coleman Dollarhide
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Dwayne Moore
Hometown: Griffin, Georgia
Jack Man: Matthew Schlytter
Hometown: Ponte Vedra, Florida
Fuel Man: Corey Coppola
Hometown: Bluefield, West Virginia
Road Crew Members
Mechanic: Joe Zanolini
Hometown: Sybertsville, Pennsylvania
Mechanic: Nick McIntosh
Hometown: Havre, Montana
Shock Specialist: Aaron Kuehn
Hometown: Kensington, Connecticut
Tire Specialist: Thomas Gagliano
Hometown: East Hampton, Connecticut
Engine Specialist: Evan Cupples
Hometown: Hudson, Illinois
Transporter Co-Driver: Eddie DeGroot
Hometown: Baldwinsville, New York
Transporter Co-Driver: David Rodrigues
Hometown: Santa Clarita, California
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!