Competing in his third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Cole Custer is set to achieve a milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s Cup event at Watkins Glen International, the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang will reach 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.
A native of Ladera Ranch, California, Custer made his Cup Series debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2018. By then, he was competing in his second season as a full-time Xfinity Series competitor for Stewart-Haas Racing. Driving the No. 51 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing, Custer started 30th and finished 25th in his series debut. He competed in two additional Cup races for RWR at Pocono Raceway in June and at Richmond Raceway in September, where he finished 26th in both events.
Following back-to-back runner-up results in the final Xfinity Series standings in 2018 and 2019, Custer was promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series as a full-time competitor for Stewart-Haas Racing and in the No. 41 Ford Mustang. He kicked off his rookie Cup season with a 37th-place result in the Daytona 500 following a rear end failure. He rebounded three races later by finishing ninth at Phoenix Raceway in March, which marked his first top-10 result in the Cup circuit.
After finishing no higher than 12th through the following 11 scheduled races, Custer notched his first top-five result in the Cup Series after finishing fifth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. Then, the Californian scored his first Cup career victory during the following weekend at Kentucky Speedway after he overtook Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. with a bold four-wide pass on the final lap and during an overtime attempt. The victory, which occurred in his 20th series start, made Custer the 194th different competitor to win in the Cup Series and it guaranteed the driver and his No. 41 SHR team a spot in the 2020 Cup Playoffs. Custer went on to record three additional top-10 results during the 26-race regular-season stretch before the Playoffs commenced. By then, Custer wrapped up the 2020 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title since he was the lone rookie contender to make the Playoffs and would finish higher in the standings than his fellow contenders (Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Brennan Poole and Quin Houff).
After finishing no higher than 12th during the Round of 16 in the Playoffs, Custer’s title hopes came to an end as he was one of four competitors eliminated from the postseason. Nonetheless, he went on to record a ninth-place result at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in October before capping off his rookie Cup season in 16th place in the final standings.
Custer, who returned to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2021, kicked off his sophomore Cup season by finishing 11th in the Daytona 500. His lone highlights throughout the season, however, were a pair of 10th-place results (Talladega Superspeedway in April and Dover International Speedway in May) as he endured an inconsistent regular season stretch that prevented him from making the 2021 Cup Playoffs. Finishing no higher than 11th during the final 10 scheduled events, Custer capped off his sophomore Cup season in 26th place in the final standings.
Through 99 previous Cup starts, Custer has achieved one victory, one pole, two top-five results, 11 top-10 results, 17 laps led and an average-finishing result of 20.7. This season, he achieved his first Cup career pole at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course in April and has recorded two top-10 results through the first 24-scheduled events, which are a pair of ninth-place runs at Atlanta Motor Speedway and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in July. He is also ranked in 25th place in the regular-season standings and trails the top-16 cutline to make the 2022 Cup Playoffs by 363 points with two regular-season events remaining to the schedule.
Custer is primed to make his 100th Cup Series career start at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 21, with the event’s coverage to occur at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.