Stewart-Haas Racing: Richmond NXS Advance (Cole Custer | Riley Herbst)

COLE CUSTER | RILEY HERBST
Richmond NASCAR Xfinity Series Advance
NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

• Event: Richmond 250 (Round 7 of 33)
• Date: Saturday, April 1
• Location: Richmond (Va.) Raceway
• Layout: .75-mile oval
• Time/TV/Radio: 1 p.m. EDT on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

• The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Richmond (Va.) Raceway for Saturday’s Richmond 250 and Cole Custer couldn’t be happier to be racing at a short track. After racing from the back of the field into a top-three position during last Saturday’s race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, the No. 00 Haas Automation driver looked to be in contention to fight for the win with AJ Allmendinger and Sheldon Creed. Contact with another car derailed those plans, however, as Custer fell off the lead lap and had to settle for a 32nd-place finish. He’s looking to turn his luck around at Richmond and hopes to continue to show speed as he heads to one of his best tracks on the schedule.

• The Richmond 250 will be Custer’s eighth Xfinity Series start at Richmond. Since his first start at the track in 2016, he has never finished outside of the top-15. In his last fulltime season in the Xfinity Series in 2019, Custer led a race-high 122 laps in the April race at Richmond and scored the win in his No. 00 Ford Mustang. He beat runner-up Austin Cindric by 2.639 seconds. He followed up that victory with a third-place finish when the series returned to Richmond in September. Custer and his SHR Ford also started on the pole and led 43 laps en route to a sixth-place finish in the April 2018 race there. In his first Xfinity Series start at the track in April 2016, he scored a sixth-place finish driving the No. 5 JR Motorsports entry.

• In addition to his Xfinity Series starts, Custer has six NASCAR Cup Series starts and two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts at Richmond. His best outing was his 14th-place finish in his second Cup Series race there in September 2020. Custer’s first two Richmond starts came in the K&N Pro Series East in 2013 and 2014. The first year, he started and finished third after leading 24 of 100 laps, then qualified second and led a race-high 52 of 100 laps the following year en route to his fourth of four career victories in that series.

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

• Riley Herbst isn’t slowing down. As the only fulltime Xfinity Series driver to finish in the top-10 every race this season, the No. 98 Monster Energy driver hopes to keep the momentum going during Saturday’s Richmond 250. After weeks of running in the top-three and contending for wins, Herbst is looking forward to his return to his favorite track on the circuit – Richmond Raceway. He has come to excel on the short tracks in the Xfinity Series, as was evident last season. In the four races at the tracks less than a mile in length, Herbst scored three top-fives last season, including a fifth-place finish in April on the .75-mile Richmond oval. He was third in November at the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Raceway paperclip, and fifth at the half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in September. He just missed a fourth short-track top-five last year when he finished sixth in the April race at Martinsville. Saturday’s race at Richmond will mark Herbst’s 16th on a short track. After finishing an impressive sixth in his first career start in June 2018 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Herbst has gone on to earn 11 more top-10s, including his last six short-track starts dating back to a third-place finish in September 2021 at Bristol.

• Saturday’s Richmond 250 will mark Herbst’s sixth at Richmond. In addition to last April’s fifth-place finish, he earned a fifth-place finish there in April 2021. In his five Richmond starts since debuting at the track in April 2019, Herbst has only finished outside the top-10 once. Strategy calls by crew chief Richard Boswell and Herbst’s savvy driving led to the 24-year-old driver’s top-fives in his last two visits to the track. Both came as a result of late-race calls to take tires and good restarts by Herbst.

• Herbst’s top-10s in each of the first six Xfinity Series races is his best career start to a season, elevating him to second in the points standings, just 15 points behind the championship leader Austin Hill. Dating back to his eighth-place result last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s posted nine consecutive top-10s. In the midst of that Xfinity Series top-10 streak, Herbst also scored another pair of top-10s outside the series. He co-drove to a third-place finish in November’s Baja 1000 in the family’s Herbst Motorsports trophy truck, and his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 65th running of the Daytona 500 in February resulted in a 10th-place finish behind the wheel of the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang.

• Monster Energy will once again adorn the hood of Herbst’s No. 98 Ford Mustang this weekend at Richmond, but he won’t be the only Herbst in a vehicle sporting the iconic green monster claw. Across the country, Monster Energy will also be on the Herbst Motorsports trophy trucks in the San Felipe 250. Just before Herbst takes the green flag in Saturday’s race at Richmond, his younger cousins, Pierce, Thor, and EJ Herbst, and his uncle Tim will take over the reins of the family’s Monster Energy trophy trucks for a 9 a.m. PDT race start in San Felipe, Mexico. NASCAR on FOX featured the Herbst off-road racing legacy in a segment on the March 4 Las Vegas Motor Speedway pre-race show. Watch the full feature HERE, and follow the Herbst family entries in the San Felipe 250 via live tracking on SCORE International Saturday morning prior to the Xfinity Series race.

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang

Time to put COTA behind you and move on to a track where you’ve won in the past. How excited are you to head to Richmond in search of another victory?

“I’m ready for Richmond. It’s a track that I’ve won at before, so I’m hoping we can find a little magic there this weekend. It’s going to be hard, though. Unlike the race I won, this is a day race. The track’s going to be hot and slick. Honestly, it can be a really frustrating racetrack. I feel like you go there and fight the same thing every single time. The difference is just how emphasized your problems are, so hopefully we can get into the corner how we want to and go for the win.”

The SHR short-track program has been strong in the past, but even more so the past few years. What are your goals, both as a driver and a team, in these short-track races?

“I mean we want to go and win every race that we’re in, both myself as a driver and the overall team. Obviously, Riley (Herbst) has had some good runs on short tracks in his career and with SHR. I’m hoping to kind of lean on him with this new package and get us both up there to compete for the win at the end. We want both cars to be as competitive as possible, so we’ll continue to work together as one team.”

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang

We’re heading to Richmond Raceway for the first true short-track race of the season. How do you think the new rules and package on the Xfinity Series cars will affect the racing there?

“I don’t think anyone knows how this package will affect the short-track races. It’s going to be different, for sure. We’ve put some simulator time in to try and figure it out, but I don’t think we’ll know until we hit the track on Saturday for practice. I could definitely see it forcing the drivers to come off the corners a little straighter but, again, there are things you just have to figure out by getting behind the wheel of the car. I’m excited to get to Richmond, though. It’s one of my favorite racetracks on the circuit. I feel like if we can do everything right, we’ll be a contender at the end of the race.”

You came out of the gate strong in 2023, now the only driver to finish in the top-10 in every race so far, and you’re contending for wins. How close do you think you are to scoring that first career Xfinity Series win?

“I think we’re close, but we’re always coming into a race competing to win. That’s never not been the plan. I could see us winning one of these next few races, though, and that’s exciting. There’s a new confidence on this team, and it’s honestly just showing how much hard work we’ve put in these past few years. I’m proud of how much I’ve matured as a driver, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to grow with. I’m hoping to put them and my biggest supporters at Monster Energy in victory lane soon.”

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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