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Ford Performance NASCAR: Cole Custer Homestead Media Availability

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
Ford Zoom Media Availability | Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series, is 11th in the point standings after finishes of 11th in the Daytona 500 and 13th on the Daytona Road Course.  As the series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, Custer spoke about the start to his season and success he’s had at the intermediate track, which included one win and a pair of second-place finishes in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

COLE CUSTER, No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang

HOW DO YOU FEEL AFTER THE FIRST TWO RACES OF THE SEASON?  “It’s been a solid start.  I think the biggest thing for us right now is just kind of keeping that consistency.  I think, especially these first five races, it’s kind of something where you want to make sure that you keep yourself in the game.  You don’t want to put yourself behind and then you’re kind of fighting to get yourself back up there, so it’s trying not to put yourself in a hole right now is probably one of the biggest thing and I think we’ve done a really good job at that, and it’s just a matter of building on it week by week and I think we’ll be right in the mix of it.”

ARE YOU GLAD TO GET BACK OVAL TRACK RACING?  “Yeah, I think this weekend is gonna tell you a lot of where teams are on their 550 packages and their intermediate tracks.  It should be a telltale sign for that type of racetrack.  This is gonna be a big weekend for a lot of teams showing what they worked on in the offseason and what they’ve got for this year, but also with how many road courses there are in the schedule this year it was really important having competitiveness at the Daytona Road Course.  Those road courses are gonna be even more important this year.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI SENT A TWEET TODAY SAYING SOME OF THE YOUNGER DRIVERS ARE OVERHYPED.  WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN A VETERAN DRIVER SAYS SOMETHING LIKE THAT?  “We want to make stars in this sport.  I think that’s one of the biggest things, so the media and people are gonna hype people up.  That’s just part of sports in general.  The thing that I’ve realized over the last few years is that nobody is really that special, so everybody is just a person.  Everybody is the same, working out what they’re trying to do.  Everybody has different mindsets and stuff like that and excels at different things, but a lot of times everybody is a little bit hyped up more than what they are.  When you’re trying to judge people and how good of a race car driver they are, you can’t think of them as just the next big thing.  You have to think of it as what they’ve done and how well they’ve worked at it.  I don’t think of things of hyping people up.  I don’t really like that.”

DO YOU FEEL SOME PEOPLE DON’T APPRECIATE HOW HARD YOU’VE WORKED TO GET WHERE YOU’RE AT?  “I think you have that for sure at times, and that’s probably different for every single driver, but you do work really hard to try and look at all kinds of different film, look at different data, take tons of notes, study for hours and hours before race weekends and try to work really hard on making sure that you’re coming to the track prepared and doing everything that you can do physically possible to try and be ready.  There is a lot of work behind the scenes that happens.”

HOW DIFFERENT IS IT RACING AT HOMESTEAD WHEN IT’S NOT THE CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND ANYMORE?  “That’s a tough question.  I guess it’s still a really fun racetrack to go to for the drivers.  You’re able to move around the track and run different lanes.  I think from a driver’s standpoint it’s one of our favorite places to go to just because you’re slipping and sliding around and able to do a lot as a driver.  It’s a different feel for sure that it’s not championship weekend anymore, but you just look at it as another weekend now and you try to go there and get as many points as you can and set yourself up for the rest of the season.”

HOW DIFFERENT IS THE CAR ON THE CUP SIDE COMPARED TO XFINITY?  “It’s a complete 180.  That was one of the things that was really tough for me, just getting used to what the 550 package was and how the Cup cars drove.  I mean, it was the exact opposite of what the XFINITY cars were, at least from how my philosophy was on driving those cars.  It took me a lot of learning on how I was gonna change my driving style to fit the Cup car better and it’s just a matter of giving up way more downforce, less motor and you have to figure out how to carry the throttle pretty much is the biggest thing — just being able to drive into the corner deep and figure out how you can keep your long run speed in your car, how much you want to trim it out and things like that.”

DO YOU FEEL THAT IS INSTRUMENTAL IN FINDING THE CONSISTENCY YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR?  “Yeah, for sure.  It was something that, for me, just getting used to the cars and figuring out what I needed to be doing and then from just a team standpoint I think we’ve kind of over the last year or a little bit over a year we’ve worked pretty hard on trying to figure out what’s the best package for me at these 550 tracks and figuring out what I like in the car compared to what my teammates like, and then using our teammates notes to see what we can try.  It’s always an ongoing process to see how you can get yourself better.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR ACTING DEBUT ON THE CREW?  HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE?  “It was something NASCAR kind of reached out about.  If you wanted to come and be a part of it, and I definitely wanted to because whenever it’s Kevin James, I mean, you want to be a part of that experience and see what it’s going to be like.  I would not give myself a good grade (laughing).  I don’t know if I’m gonna be called back, but I did my lines and I did my best, so I can work on it for next time maybe, but it was fun.  Just being around somebody like that.  I mean, a totally different profession like Kevin James.  A lot of the stuff he was doing was off script, just thinking off the top of his head and it was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how fast he could think and make up different lines and stuff like that.”

IS THERE A POINT IN THE REGULAR SEASON REALLY WHERE YOU HAVE TO START PACING YOURSELF?  “I think starting off the season you’re just trying to make sure you don’t put yourself in a hole.  That’s the biggest thing, at least from my standpoint.  From there, you just try and build it and you try and get more and more confident, more comfortable with what’s going on just because we don’t have the practice to work through a lot of things as a driver, so limited the big mistakes and kind of working into it is probably a smart idea, and then once you get into the summer months you’re trying to perfect it more and more and get more and more aggressive.  It’s just a matter of working up to it is the biggest thing.”

THE KESELOWSKI COMMENTS WERE REALLY ABOUT CONTRACTS AND PAYING YOUNG DRIVERS LESS BECAUSE YOU GO THROUGH SOCIAL NUMBERS AND THAT’S MAYBE MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW GREAT YOU DRIVE OR HOW MANY TROPHIES YOU HAVE.  DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT RELATED TO YOUR CONTRACT?  DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL NUMBERS?  “I think one of the cool things we get to do in NASCAR is to be able to engage with the fans as much as we do.  It’s a fun thing that you can be a part of and at first I probably wasn’t the best at it.  I’ve just always been a little bit quieter, but it’s something that I think I’ve grown more and more comfortable with and you can have a lot of fun with it.  Back to what you said about Brad, I didn’t see his comments so I have no idea.  I don’t really want to say too much because I haven’t seen it, but it’s an interesting spot.  It’s just part of where sponsorship is and how stuff works now.  I mean, it’s one of those things.  I don’t know.  I think sometimes if you don’t have all the sponsorship there and people are finding ways to pay for things and that’s just part of the game right now I guess you would say.”

YOUR SOCIAL NUMBERS ARE AS IMPORTANT AND PART OF THE GAME, RIGHT?  “Yeah, that’s a huge part of it is being good off the track and on the track.  I’m just trying to have a good answer for this, but it’s an interesting question.  I’m probably not the best one to speak on it.  He has a lot more experience than I do, but it’s an interesting time for sure.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LAS VEGAS AND HOW RACY THAT SURFACE HAS BECOME?  “Yeah, it’s huge.  Whenever you see these tracks that are wearing out more and more it just makes them racier and racier, in my opinion.  We’re able to slip and slide around and you’re able to do more.  You’re able to do more stuff.  You’re able to move around the track and you’re able to kind of find some things that’s better than the guy next to you, so it’s something that’s really fun and I think it’s something that every single driver gets excited when the pavement gets wore out.”

HOW DOES VEGAS COMPARE TO OTHER TRACKS THAT ARE WORN?  “It’s a track that’s kind of transitioning into that field, I guess you’d say.  It’s getting there.  It’s starting to get a little more wore out, but it’s also the big thing there are the bumps.  The surface might not be extremely worn, but they have just huge bumps, so it does bring a huge challenge into how the driver is gonna make it through the bumps and how the team is gonna set the car up through it.”

YOU WERE 22ND LAST YEAR AT HOMESTEAD.  WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO BE BETTER THIS YEAR?  “it’s been so long since we’ve been to Homestead.  I think we’ve grown so much since then, so I don’t know if it’s even comparable, honestly.  For us, it’s just gonna be a matter of having a car that you can drive into the corner deep and carry a lot of throttle.  That’s pretty much what the 550 package is.  At Homestead, you will have to worry more about your long run speed just because the tires do wear out a lot, but being able to be really confident with your car and move it around the track on restarts will be a huge deal.”

WHAT IS THE TRICK TO RUNNING THE HIGH LINE THERE?  “I think the guys that you see who are really good at it they’re able to enter right on the wall and be as close to it as humanly possible.  The closer you get to it, the more grip you have.  There is also risk with that, so it’s a matter of balancing the risk versus reward and knowing what time to do it and what time to push it.  I think that’s one of the big parts of it is just managing the risk.”

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR ROAD COURSE PROGRAM IS SO FAR AND WHERE DO YOU NEED TO IMPROVE?  “We were solid.  I thought we were a solid top 10 car, honestly, the whole race on Sunday.  I think we just need to keep going in the direction we are.  We found little things from the Clash and we brought them to the points paying race at the Daytona Road Course and I think it definitely worked out good.  We need to keep working in those little areas to try and get better and better, so it’s just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I don’t know if you could pinpoint it on one thing ever.”

WITH MCDOWELL AND BELL WINNING DOES IT CHANGE THE DYNAMIC FOR YOU AS FAR AS THE PLAYOFFS?  “It’s definitely not ideal, but at the same time it’s probably too early to know how that is all going to work out.  At this point, you just try and keep being consistent, keep trying to work up to it, and run in the top 10 and get stage points and try to get as many points as you can.  It’s something where halfway through the year and you’re in that spot where you don’t want to be, you’re right on the bubble, you might have to be more aggressive, but at this point it’s too early to tell.  I feel like you just have to keep trying to be consistent.”

ARE YOU FINE WITH NASCAR CALLING CAUTIONS FOR RAIN OR IS IT BETTER TO CHANGE THE RULE WHERE IT’S MORE ON THE TEAMS AND DRIVERS TO COME IN AND PIT IN THOSE SITUATIONS?  “That’s a tough question because the situation is gonna be different every single time.  If it just starts downpouring instantly, having a caution there is a good idea because half the field is gonna wreck on slicks because the whole track is wet, but the other side of it is if it’s just a little bit of rain you could probably put that more in the team’s decision.  It’s always gonna be a little bit of a judgement call is the problem.  It sucked that they threw the caution and it didn’t keep raining, so they threw it and it didn’t really work out, but I think you’re gonna have that at times in sports.  Everything is not gonna be perfect.”

WHAT WAS YOUR SENSE OF ALARM BEFORE THE CAUTION WAS CALLED?  “It was sprinkling a little bit.  It wasn’t something I was extremely worried about.  I was running in the top 10, so I just wanted it to stay green, but I’m sure the guys who were running a little bit further back were like, ‘We want the caution right now.’  So, I don’t know.  I think it’s something that could have gone either way and they decided to throw the caution and that’s just part of it.”

IS THERE STILL A FEEL WHEN YOU’RE GETTING CLOSE TO THE WALL TO KNOW HOW CLOSE YOU CAN GET TO IT?  “I guess the biggest thing is it’s a combination of using your eyes of how close you are to the wall and then you have to use your feel, like you said, of how the air is compacting it into the wall and how much of a feel you have of how close you are to it.  Your eyes will only get you to a certain point.  You kind of have to use your feel to kind of get you all the way there.”

WHO ARE THE BEST GUYS THAT RUN THAT LINE CONSISTENTLY?  “I think you definitely look at Tyler Reddick and you look at Kyle Larson.  I think those guys have definitely probably been at the top of the sheet on that line, and they’re probably the ones who are the most committed to it also.  It’s one of those things.  You definitely have some speed up there, but it’s a matter of risk versus reward and making sure you don’t ruin your day up there also.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR FIRST TWO RACES?  “Right now, I think we’re honestly in a good spot.  I was happy with our run at Daytona.  We ran a lot of the race in the top 10.  I think we just need to keep building off that.  If you can run in the top 10 and get stage points and not make the big mistakes, you’re gonna find yourself in some pretty good spots and you’re gonna find yourself right in the middle of the points battle to make the playoffs.  I think it’s just a matter of taking it week by week and making sure we keep progressing, but I think we’re in a pretty good spot right now.”


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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