Event: PowerShares QQQ 300 (Round 1 of 33)
Date: Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway
Layout: 2.5-mile oval (restrictor-plate track)
Cole Custer Notes of Interest
The PowerShares QQQ 300 will mark Cole Custer’s sixth career NASCAR XFINITY Series start, his first career XFINITY Series start at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and his first career XFINITY Series start in a restrictor-plate race.
Custer’s five previous XFINITY Series starts came in 2016. His best result was a fourth-place finish May 28 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Custer has two overall starts at Daytona between the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series. Both came in February 2016 during Speedweeks, with Custer finishing 24th in the Truck Series race and 10th in the ARCA race.
Custer won the pole for the 2016 ARCA season opener at Daytona, becoming the youngest pole winner in Daytona history among the ARCA, Truck, XFINITY and Cup series.
Custer has competed in three restrictor-plate races – twice in the Camping World Truck Series (once at Daytona and once at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway) and once in ARCA (Daytona). All of them came in 2016. His best Truck Series finish was 24th at Daytona and his best ARCA finish was 10th.
Custer is competing for rookie-of-the-year honors in the XFINITY Series.
Cole Custer, Driver Q&A
What does racing at Daytona mean to you?
“Daytona is definitely one of the most historic tracks we go to, so it means a lot just to get to race there. Getting a win there also puts you with some legendary names in the sport. Growing up, I always looked forward to Daytona because the pack racing was so cool and it was the first race of the year. It’s always a surreal feeling to race at Daytona because you can’t believe you’re doing what you dreamed of as a kid.”
You’ve competed at Daytona twice in your career, but never in the XFINITY Series. How do you feel those past experiences will prepare you for the PowerShares QQQ 300?
“I feel the Truck and ARCA Series helped prepare me to get used to racing in the pack and working with the air. It kind of gave me an idea of where I need to be in the pack and how to stay out of trouble. There are definitely a lot of different things about the XFINITY Series that I will have to learn, though. There are a lot of guys out there with a lot of experience in plate racing, but I’m looking forward to getting in my new Haas Automation Ford Mustang and competing for a top position.”
You’re only 19 years old, but you’ve been a rookie many times already in a career that has advanced you to the XFINITY Series. Even with all the newness of the XFINITY Series, does having been a rookie in USAC, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and the Camping World Truck Series, and then establishing yourself in those series, give you the confidence you need to compete at this level?
“The XFINITY Series will definitely be a new challenge with a lot of tough competitors, but I’m confident in Stewart-Haas and Ford to give the team a great season. I think we have a great shot at a successful season and I’m looking forward to it.”
What are your expectations for Daytona and your rookie XFINITY Series season?
“I think we have as good of a shot as anyone to win at Daytona. We’re building some great Haas Automation Ford Mustangs and have great support from Ford and Stewart-Haas. Stewart-Haas is one of the best teams in NASCAR right now, so I’m confident in our abilities. I think we’ll have a really good shot at Daytona and I’m really looking forward to it. Right now, Daytona is all about staying out of trouble and getting a solid finish. A win would be great, but a solid finish and staying out of trouble would be great, too. For the season, I would like to aim for some solid finishes to start, then make our way to the playoffs and go from there.”
Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A
You’ve worked with a lot of veteran drivers, including championship-winning drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth. What’s it like to work with a rookie driver?
“It’s really nice. It’s a new perspective and neat to see someone who is really excited about it, wants to be a part of it and puts most of his time and effort working to make it better. He goes to the wind tunnel and works all day in the shop. It’s different seeing that side of things. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
What have you learned about Custer and what are your expectations for Daytona and the season?
“We just want to keep improving. We want to start by consistently being a top-15 team, then a top-10 team, then a top-five team and, by the end of the season, be contenders for a championship. We’ve done one test with Cole now and I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He gives great feedback and, when you ask him questions, he has great answers. He does a great job at steering you in the direction to make the car handle better. I think we’re going to work very well together.”
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