No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
● Event: Ally 400 (Round 17 of 36)
● Time/Date: 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 26
● Location: Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway
● Layout: 1.333-mile, concrete oval
● Laps/Miles: 300 laps/399 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 90 laps / Stage 2: 95 laps / Final Stage: 115 laps
● TV/Radio: NBC / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● Coming off the lone off weekend of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, Cole Custer and the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) kick off a stretch of 20 consecutive race weekends with Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. It will be the Cup Series’ second-ever appearance on the 1.333-mile concrete oval on the outskirts of Music City after last year’s debut at the track that hosted NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series events from 2001 to 2011.
● Riding along with Custer and the No. 41 SHR Mustang for the second time this season is Dixie Vodka. Launched in 2014 and based in Charleston, South Carolina, Dixie Vodka was established with the simple mission of creating an all-American premium craft vodka that represents the best of Southern flavor, craftsmanship and hospitality. With six signature flavors – including its flagship Southern Original, Black Pepper, Citrus, Mint, Peach and Wildflower Honey – Dixie Vodka partners with local farmers across the South to infuse regionally cherished ingredients into its award-winning products, each of which is six-times distilled from American corn. In 2020, Dixie Vodka was ranked the ninth-fastest growing spirits brand in the United States by the Beverage Information Group and remains the largest premium craft vodka produced in the Southeast. In partnership with the Southern-raised sport that transcends regional boundaries, Dixie Vodka is proud to serve as the Official Vodka of NASCAR and the Official Vodka of Stewart-Haas Racing. Dixie Vodka donates at least 1% of all profits through its 1% for the Planet program, a commitment to supporting non-profits that work to protect the future of the planet. A core brand within the Grain & Barrel Spirits portfolio – an innovation-driven beverage platform that develops and scales craft spirits brands led by founder Matti Anttila – Dixie Vodka can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and on shelves in more than 30 states.
● Sunday’s 300-lap race will be Custer’s 92nd Cup Series start and his second at Nashville. He qualified seventh in last year’s inaugural Cup Series race at Nashville but saw his day ruined by a flat tire and subsequent brake rotor damage that required an extended period in the garage for repairs. He finished 31st.
● During the off weekend, Custer and his longtime girlfriend Kari Witt not only enjoyed a vacation together, they were engaged.
Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
You’ve had an off weekend to reset and work on your game plan for the second half of the season. How would you describe the first part of the year for the No. 41 team?
“I think it’s just been a matter of finding your package. We’ve shown speed at times this year, but you only get so many chances to get it right going into the weekend because you only get so much practice. I think we’ve gone down a little bit of the wrong path at times during the year, but now that we’re getting back, I think it’s just a matter of capitalizing on the positives. We need to accelerate the process of keeping the car underneath us, but I feel pretty good about the second half of the year.”
There were 17 consecutive race weekends before last weekend’s break in the schedule. Now you’re looking at racing for the next 20 consecutive weekends. How do you approach that kind of a workload?
“You just keep grinding. It’s a really long year and you just have to stay at it and keep working with your team and get your cars better and go week by week. But I think the biggest thing is to take all the positives and the momentum to help keep you fresh as you go. Being able to run up there in the top-five and have a shot to win the race at the end like we did at Charlotte, that makes you pumped to go to the track the next week. I think we’re going in the right direction, it’s just a matter of cleaning some things up and having some good luck. I think we’ve shown we can have speed at times. I think at Martinsville, we were in the top-five most of the race. At COTA, we were in the top-10 for most of the race, and at Charlotte we had a really good run. But we’ve had tires roll away, we’ve had motors blow, and we’ve gotten wrecked I think six or seven times, so it seems like one thing after another. But if you bring fast cars to the racetrack, it’ll eventually turn around.”
This weekend, you’ve got a full, 50-minute practice session on Friday and won’t have to qualify until Saturday. How do you feel about the slight change in the typical weekend format?
“It’s exciting, I think mainly for the crew chiefs and the engineers. When you look at it, going straight to qualifying after your only practice of the weekend doesn’t allow anybody to really dig deep in analyzing what they need to do for qualifying. We’re to the point where everybody probably has a little bit of a baseline of where they’re at with these cars, but the extra time will allow the crew chiefs and engineers to consider all the different things they can do to get that little bit extra speed. So during Friday practice, I think you’ll definitely see some guys trying some different setups and things like that. It’ll be cool. It’ll be interesting.”
How well do you think the NextGen car stacks up against the intermediate tracks, from you experience so far?
“I think the car’s been solid at the intermediate tracks for the most part this year. We need a little bit more to get to the top-five, I would say, but I think we have potential to have a baseline to get better finishes going forward.”
No. 41 Dixie Vodka 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: Lee Deese
Hometown: Rockingham, North Carolina
Engineer: Scott Bingham
Hometown: Lawrenceville, Georgia
Spotter: Andy Houston
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Front Tire Changer: Josh Leslie
Hometown: Mount Clemens, Michigan
Rear Tire Changer: Coleman Dollarhide
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Chad Emmons
Hometown: Tyler, Texas
Jack Man: Kapil Fletcher
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fuel Man: Dewayne Moore
Hometown: Griffin, Georgia
Road Crew Members
Mechanic: Joe Zanolini
Hometown: Sybertsville, Pennsylvania
Shock Specialist: Aaron Kuehn
Hometown: Kensington, Connecticut
Engine Tuner: Jimmy Fife
Hometown: Orange County, California
Tire Specialist: Austin Greco
Hometown: Harrisburg, North Carolina
Transporter Co-Driver: David Rodrigues
Hometown: Santa Clarita, California
Transporter Co-Driver: Charlie Schleyer
Hometown: Youngsville, Pennsylvania