KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Cole Custer is back in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this weekend at Iowa Speedway in Newton, looking to improve on his career-best sixth-place finish in his last race at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development (HRD), will make his first Truck Series start at Iowa this weekend, but the 7/8 mile tri-oval is familiar territory for the 16-year-old driver.
The Ladera Ranch, California native has made several starts at Iowa Speedway, including three in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. One of those starts saw Custer make a visit to victory lane in historic fashion.
Last August, at just 15 years, 6 months and 10 days, Custer became the youngest winner in K&N Pro Series history by qualifying on the pole and leading every lap in the annual East and West combination race en route to scoring his first career Pro Series victory. In addition to breaking previous record-holder Dylan Kwasniewski’s race-winner’s age record by nearly six months, Custer also became the first driver to lead every lap in the combination race.
Custer is running a limited Truck Series campaign this season and heads to Iowa on the heels of his first top-10 finish in just three Truck Series starts. Not only did Custer finish sixth at Gateway, but he also set a NASCAR record as the youngest pole winner in national touring series history at 16 years, 4 months and 22 days. Since Custer isn’t racing for points, he finds himself in a position to contend for race wins rather than playing it safe and trying to score maximum points toward the season championship.
A driver running a limited schedule and competing for the win isn’t unheard of. After all, last November, at age 17 years, 5 months and 9 days, Erik Jones became the youngest race winner in series history at Phoenix International Raceway. It was Jones’ fifth Truck Series start. Custer would like nothing more than to break yet another record this weekend at Iowa by beating Jones’ record to become the youngest race winner to match his pole-winning status.
COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development:
Iowa Speedway has a very unique layout. What do you like about racing there?
“The track has a lot of character and it’s really racy. You can run at the top of the track or around the bottom. To be successful at Iowa, you’ve got to get through the bump in turns one and two. You carry a lot of speed there, but it still has all the characteristics of a short track. To me, you get the best of both worlds at Iowa Speedway.”
You finished sixth in your last start at Gateway a couple of weeks ago to score your first top-10 finish in the Truck Series. Does that give you confidence that you’ve got a chance at your first top-five this weekend at Iowa?
“I think so. I think we’ve got a really good package figured out for Iowa. I think Joe Shear Jr. (crew chief) has a really good setup in our Haas Automation Silverado, and we’ve been fast off the truck at every track we’ve been to this year. I’ve always run well there and he’s always had good results there, so I think we’ve got a good chance this weekend.”
This weekend’s race at Iowa will mark your fourth start in the Camping World Truck Series. Do you feel like you’re getting acclimated to Truck Series competition? Do you feel that you’ve earned the respect of the veteran drivers?
“I’d say so. At first, it was a little bit different because they have so much experience but, once you get used to driving these trucks and you see what the veteran drivers are doing and how you can make yourself better, it makes it a lot easier. I’ve learned a lot from racing the veterans of the series.”
Your crew chief Joe Shear Jr., has an impressive record of guiding drivers to strong finishes at Iowa Speedway. Does that give you confidence heading into the weekend? Does it put any additional pressure on you?
“I’d say it gives me confidence more than it adds pressure. I’ve won a race at Iowa before, in the K&N Series, and I’ve had the good fortune of driving some great cars there. So, I think if we can unload off the truck fast and get things figured out as far as adjustments to make during the race, I expect that we’ll be up front the whole race.”
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