Cole Custer Championship 4 Media Day (11.2.23)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Championship 4 Media Day | Thursday, November 2, 2023

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, will be making his third Championship 4 appearance this weekend. He finished second in both of his previous attempts to win the championship, but delivered an owner’s title to SHR in 2018.

COLE CUSTER, 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang – WHAT ABOUT YOUR PIT CREW GIVES YOU CONFIDENCE IF IT COMES DOWN TO THAT LAST STOP? “Seeing our guys and just how they’ve been in the playoffs has been unreal. I think we’ve gone from a solid pit crew to being one of the best pit crews on pit road I feel like the last seven weeks or so. It’s cool to see and I think they’re confident about that. I think it’s really cool to see when they hit a good stop because they let people know it.”

WHAT DO YOU WORRY ABOUT AND WHAT DON’T YOU WORRY ABOUT IN THIS FINALE RACE? “I think at the end of the day you can’t stress too much about all the little things. You have to just make sure you go out there and have a solid car and give yourself a shot to win it at the end. I think people can get too wrapped up in the little things, but you just have to go out there and execute the race how you want to.”

WHAT DON’T YOU WORRY ABOUT? “I think if you get the pole or if you’re P1 in practice, those little things where it’s like, ‘Oh, I want to be the fastest car every single time out there.’ You’ve just got to keep yourself in the game. If you’re in the game, you’re gonna have a good shot at the end.”

HAVE YOU RECOVERED FROM MARTINSVILLE? “Yes. That was a crazy one. I think my heart didn’t stop racing until about Monday, but it was a cool race, just chaos. I think the thing that was most crazy about is that you couldn’t control a lot of your own destiny at the end because some guys were so desperate they were gonna probably move somebody out of the way or could have caused a wreck. Obviously, there was a wreck at the last lap, but there were so many things you couldn’t control.”

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN REVERSE AND ON FIRE BEFORE? “I’ve never done that before. That was a new one for me, but you’re gonna do whatever it takes to try to get in the Championship 4. That’s a huge thing for our team and as a race car driver you want to go compete for a championship.”

HOW HAS THIS TEAM COME TOGETHER THROUGH THE YEAR? “It’s been an extremely proud year for me because I think we’ve built something. I think we started the year off and we weren’t exactly where we wanted to be, but we were a young team with a lot of young guys and I think we were able to really build it through the year and make sure to just communicate well and through that we turned ourselves into a championship competing team.”

HOW ABOUT COMING BACK AND KEEPING THAT GOING NEXT YEAR TOO? “Yeah, I think it’s huge. Being able to go and compete for another championship. I think we’ll have a great shot at it and it’s all just trying to prove that you can go and try to compete for Cup races along the way. I think we’ve proved that we can go compete for a championship and not it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

DO YOU FEEL MORE CONFIDENT THIS TIME AROUND COMPETING FOR THIS CHAMPIONSHIP THAN WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER? “I think it just comes with experience knowing what to expect, knowing not to get too riled up through the weekend. You’re gonna be up at times and you’re gonna be down at times, but knowing that you just have to put it together that last run, and I’m confident that we’re gonna have a fast car and should be able to compete for a win there.”

HOW MUCH DID YOU LOOK AT THE VIDEO OF MARTINSVILLE LAST WEEK AND GOING BACKWARDS. DOES IT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE OR A KICK OUT OF WATCHING IT? “I think if we can make it through that as a team we can probably do about anything. It was definitely a crazy weekend. I think we executed well as a team. I tried to rewatch it a lot, but the race actually went past the broadcast length, so when I tried to go back to the recording it wasn’t there, so that was a little bit frustrating, but it was a cool moment.”

DID YOU GO ON SOCIAL MEDIA? “I could see like the little highlight, but I couldn’t see every replay I wanted to see, I guess.”

WHAT CAN YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE FIRST RACE HERE THIS SEASON? “I think there were just so many things as a team that we’ve done different since then with our cars and just what we’ve learned through the year, I think, we’ll be a completely different race team. We knew we had the speed in the spring, but we just needed that long run speed, so I’m confident with it. I think we’ve shown that we can compete with anybody out there in the playoffs. Excluding last weekend because we got wrecked the last lap, we’ve scored some of the most points in the playoffs, so I think there’s nobody to be scared of out there and I think we’re gonna have a fast car.”

IS THERE A FAVORITE AMONG YOU FOUR? “Not really. I think at the end of the day it’s a pretty equal playing field. We’ve all been fast through the year. We’ve all been fast through the playoffs, it’s just a matter of how that last run plays out.”

DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO WIN? “I would say so. It seems like it’s always the top four racing each other at the end, so I’m planning on going and winning.”

DO YOU EXPECT THE OTHER DRIVERS NOT IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP TO DEFER TO YOU GUYS? “If you have a fast car, you’re gonna go out there and try to win. In ‘17 when we just missed the championship race, we went out and won. We had a super fast car, but I think when it comes down to those really tight pressure situations those guys might give you a break.”

DO YOU FEEL THE TEAMMATES OF THOSE RUNNING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP ARE VERY AGGRESSIVE? “You might have a little bit of that, but not a ton. I don’t know if there’s too much allegiance in that way, so you keep that in mind, for sure. You’re gonna have your eye on their teammates and such, but I don’t see that being too much of a factor.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PHOENIX HOSTING THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE? “I’m confident about it. I’ve won a race here in K&N and ARCA, which is different, but at the end of the day I know how to go fast here and I know what I need in the car. I think we can go out there and compete with anybody. I’m not too worried about it.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLAN WITH THE 98 TEAM AS FAR AS THIS RACE GOES? “No real plan. I think it’s just one of those things we go about business as usual and trying to communicate with each other about the setups and different ideas about the weekend, but no real plan through the weekend about how things are gonna play out or anything.”

HOW MUCH DIFFERENT ARE YOU COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND THAN MAYBE YEAR’S PAST? “I think just knowing what to expect and being confident in that. We’ve had fast cars and just a matter of you’re gonna be up and you’re gonna be down at times through the weekend and just knowing how to keep your cool and keep yourself in the fight.”

WHEN DOES YOUR PLAN DEVELOP DURING THE RACE? “For our team individually, I think what he was asking was do the two teams have a plan together. We don’t really have a plan together with the 98 for strategy through the race or anything, but for our team individually our plan is we’ve talked about that all week trying to get ready and I’m fully prepared for that and I think we’ve got a great plan of how we’re gonna execute the weekend and keep our cool and I’m ready for it.”

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE COMING IN? WHAT’S IT LIKE AWAY FROM THE TRACK FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND? “We definitely have a good amount of family and friends coming, so it’s cool. I used to come out here and race quarter midgets from time to time, so it’s definitely not too far from home, probably 10 hours or so, but it’s gonna be a cool weekend so many family and friend here this weekend and hopefully we can put on a good show for them.”

WHAT KIND OF X FACTOR DO YOU BRING THAT MAYBE THE OTHER THREE DON’T HAVE? “I think for me, my strong suit has always been I’ve always been steady and never put a foot out of line, usually. I’ve had my moments, I’m not gonna lie, but I think for the most part I’m the guy that can go out there and make sure in a pressure situation I’m not gonna do anything stupid. I’m gonna keep myself in the game and I think that lends well to a championship race and just knowing that it’s gonna come down to that last run and you’ve got to keep yourself in the game until then.”

CAN YOU GIVE ME A SENSE OF WHAT LEADS TO THIS MOMENT? “I think for us as a team this year it’s been such a year of building. I think it’s been one of the most proud years I’ve been a part of just because we’ve turned a fairly young team at the start of the year with our personnel, and I think being able to turn what was a solid team at the start of the year to a championship-competing team and I think one of the best in the garage. So that makes me very proud from my standpoint to be a part of that and to build something like that, so it’s very, very cool to be a part of. I think everybody at SHR in the Xfinity group and the Cup group works well together and just being a part of that has been huge.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO DO YOUR PART TO ELEVATE THIS TEAM? “I think for us this year was just the communication. For me, it was working with my team and really understanding the setups and understanding what we need to make our cars better. I think that was a huge thing for me this year and I’m proud of how I feel I’ve made myself better this year by being able to communicate to my team and really get what I want in the race car, but I think that’s cool to be a part of and I think we should have a great shot this weekend because we’ve brought some really fast cars for the playoffs.”

WHAT IS IT YOU’RE ABLE TO DO THAT YOU GUYS HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING? “I think that’s part of the problem sometimes with young guys is the teams focus on ‘you just drive. Don’t focus on anything else. Just drive. Don’t worry about anything with the car.’ I think the problem with that sometimes is unfortunately you’re the idiot behind the wheel (laughing). You’re the only person that has any say of what’s actually going on out there, so if you’re not intelligent about what you’re talking about and really in tune with what’s going on with the cars, you might not be able to lead the team in the right direction. I think being able to work on that this year and truly learning what we need in our cars and what works for me and being able to lead the team in the right direction has made me really proud to be a part of that.”

HOW DID YOU GET OVER THE MOVE FROM CUP BACK TO XFINITY? “You’re definitely trying to prove something a little bit when you go down a level, but I think you just have to focus on yourself. I think, for me, behind the scenes this year I’ve proved myself that I can go run Cup and compete for wins. I know as a team that I’ve been very proud of how much I’ve gotten better this year of working with my team and getting what I want in the cars and really understanding that, and I think being able to go and compete for a championship and hopefully win a championship proves to everybody else that.”

HOW MUCH OF YOUR PREPARATION FOR THIS RACE FOCUSES ON THE THREE GUYS YOU’RE RACING AGAINST OR DO YOU JUST FOCUS ON YOUR OWN PREP MORE THAN ANYTHING? “Yeah, I don’t really care about them that much. I think it comes down to what you do with your car and you focus on yourself because I think, for us, we’ve had so much speed in the playoffs that if we bring our best stuff and have a good car and execute how we need to, I’m not really worried about anybody else. So, we’ll do that and make sure that we’re there for that last run.”

WHAT DO YOU FEEL THIS 00 TEAM DOES BEST? “I think the details and I think the matter of just really communicating what we need. I think we’re a great team that doesn’t have a lot of egos, and we’ve been able to communicate very well to get ourselves from a solid team to a championship-competing team through the year. I’m proud to be a part of that and I think how our team works together to fix problems lends well for this race.”

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING IN YOUR CAR THAT HAS A SPECIAL MEANING? “No, not really. I don’t really have anything too special in the car.”

HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE EXPECTATIONS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR WHEN YOU WERE CONSIDERED A FAVORITE AT THE START? “The start of the year it was a little bit frustrating because we weren’t where we wanted to be. We were running OK, but we weren’t really having the results that we wanted, but through that we’ve really learned how to work as a team and get our cars better and what we needed to show up for the weekend and get what we needed. I’m proud to be a part of something like that where we’ve grown so much through the year and really shown that in the playoffs we’ve brought such fast cars that we haven’t needed the playoff points to go and make the Championship 4. We made up the points deficit from guys and really closed that gap and got ourselves in the Championship 4 the hard way. I’m proud to have been a part of something like that.”

HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY EXTRA SUPPORT FROM THE CUP SIDE THE LAST MONTH WITH ENGINEERING HELP OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT? “It’s not because they’re not in the playoffs or anything, I think JT has been a part of the organization for a long time. He knows a lot of people over there, so they want to help us. It’s been cool to see everybody jumping on board and really helping our team out to try and get anything we can to try and make sure we bring everything we’ve got to the racetrack. People from the Cup side have been helping and everybody on the Xfinity side has been putting everything they can into it and it’s been cool to see that.”

ANY EXTRA PRESSURE BEING THE ONLY SHR GUY STILL IN THE HUNT? “I think there’s definitely some pride that we want to bring a championship back to SHR. It hasn’t been the greatest narrative the last couple of years, but we want to make sure that we change that narrative and bring back a trophy. I think it would be huge for the company and we want to go out there and make it happen.”

SUMMARIZE WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR CAREER RIGHT NOW? “I think I’m to the point now where you’re to your max. You’re 25 years old and you’ve learned. You’ve been down. You’ve been up. You’ve learned from your mistakes and I think you’re to your best right now. I feel like I’m racing at my best right now and I feel like we’ve grinded this year and seeing how much we’ve improved has been awesome and being a part of something like that has been awesome for me, so I’m looking forward to it.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL THIS TEAM WAS AT THE START OF THE YEAR THAT YOU NEEDED TO IMPROVE IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I just think being a young group and not having a huge notebook on recent notes for our team was a little bit tough. I’d run four years ago and the question was, ‘Can we just run setups from four years ago?’ It’s hard to say that, so we kind of had to learn the first part of the year of what we really needed and once we really communicated and figured that out, we’ve been one of the teams to beat.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “I think it’s just a matter of keeping yourself in the game until that last run. We’re gonna have a fast race car. It’s just a matter of making sure that you keep yourself in the game until that last run and then you’ve got to make it happen.”

IS IT STRESSFUL FOR YOU OR ARE YOU JUST READY FOR SATURDAY? “We’re just ready to go. I think there’s not too much stress just because we’re focused on the task at hand. Last week was stressful because there were things that were out of your control at the end of that race, but this week it’s just a matter of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s and making sure you give yourself a good shot at it.”

HOW DO YOU PUT SOMETHING LIKE LAST WEEK BEHIND YOU AND GET READY FOR PHOENIX? “Sunday we were in the shop trying to get ready for this weekend and make sure that we had everything prepared and getting ahead of it because there are so many different things that go into this weekend that you can get behind on things and we wanted to make sure that we were ahead. We worked hard at the first part of the week getting ahead on it and I think we brought everything that we can.”

WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING WITH THE RACING ON SATURDAY? “I think the track has gotten racier and racier as it has aged and how they have the resin down right now is pretty racy, so it should be a good race. I think it’s gonna be the top four guys banging doors probably and I bet it’s gonna be an exciting race at the end.”

HOW MUCH DO YOU GO BACK AND WATCH VIDEO OF WHAT THE OTHER THREE HAVE DONE? “You look at it a little bit, but, at the end of the day, you focus on yourself. I know if we go out there with a fast car and do what we need to do, we’re gonna be able to compete for a win. You try and focus on yourself and what you need to do.”

DO YOU FEEL HAVING CUP EXPERIENCE IS AN ADVANTAGE OR NOT SO MUCH WITH ALLGAIER AND NEMECHEK HAVING THAT AS WELL? “I think we all have experience in this situation and we all have confidence in our teams. I would put my team up against any other one out there, so that’s all you can really do is go out there and make sure you execute the day how you want to and be prepared.”

THIS IS YOUR THIRD TIME IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4. HAVE YOU NOTICED OVER THOSE TIMES IF THE COMPETITORS NOT IN THE TITLE RACED YOU DIFFERENTLY? “It’s not huge. It’s one of those things where if you’re in a tight situation, you’re probably going to give a little bit to the Championship 4 guys, but at the end of the day those guys are racing for a win. If they have a fast car, they’re going to do what they’ve got to do for it. But I think in those tight situations they’re gonna give a little bit.”

WHAT ABOUT THE TEAMMATES OF THOSE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4? “You’ll keep your eye on it, but I don’t see too much of that happening. At the end of the day you just kind of focus on yourself.”

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


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