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

COLE CUSTER | RILEY HERBST

Portland NASCAR Xfinity Series Advance

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

  • Event: Portland 147 (Round 13 of 33)
  • Date: Saturday, June 1
  • Location: Portland (Ore.) International Raceway
  • Layout: 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course
  • Time/TV/Radio: 4:30 p.m. EDT on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

  • Cole Custer heads back to the scene of his first win of the 2023 season during Saturday’s Portland 147 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway. After racing back-to-back on intermediate tracks with an off weekend in-between, last year’s Portland winner is ready to tackle the 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course as the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. After his third-place finish May 11 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Custer came back from the season’s third off weekend showing speed last weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He topped the speed charts in Friday’s practice, then qualified sixth for Saturday’s race, in which he looked to be well on his way to another top-three finish in the closing laps when contact with Austin Hill on the backstretch turned his No. 00 Ford Mustang Dark Horse into the inside wall and forced him to retire just 26 laps shy of the checkered flag. Despite his first DNF of the season, Custer now knows he’s heading to a racetrack where he turned his luck around last season by darting into the lead on the final restart to earn his first of three victories in 2023.
  • Saturday’s Portland 147 will mark Custer’s second Xfinity Series start at the Pacific Northwest facility. In his first start there last year, the Ladera Ranch, California, native earned his victory from the second starting position. He crossed the finish line .142 of a second ahead of runner-up Justin Allgaier. Custer also competed in last year’s ARCA Menards Series West race at Portland the day before the Xfinity Series race. He started the 57-lap race third and finished second, 1.957 seconds behind winner Landen Lewis. Custer hasn’t finished outside the top-10 on road since a crash ended his day early in the July 29 race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
  • Custer has found momentum on road courses since his return to the Xfinity Series at the start of the 2023 season, finishing in the top-10 in every race but one when turning right and left. In the eight road-course starts and one street-course start in that time, Custer has earned two victories, six top-10s, and led 35 laps. Custer’s history on road courses suggests he’s a silent road-course ringer. He followed up his June 3 victory at Portland with another win in the inaugural Chicago Street Race on July 1. Custer has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his 24 career road-course outings in the Xfinity Series. This past March 23, he finished fourth on the 3.426-mile, 20-turn Circuit of the Americas (COTA) layout in Austin, Texas.
  • Autodesk will adorn the hood of Custer’s No. 00 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for the first time of the season in an alpha-bravo paint scheme with Haas Automation. The company previously sponsored Custer from 2020 to 2022 in the NASCAR Cup Series. For four decades, Autodesk has worked together with its customers to transform how things are made, and in doing so, it has also transformed what can be made. A car’s performance now inspires the method of its manufacture, a city’s infrastructure helps predict the unpredictable, and the creation of ever-bigger universes shapes ever-bigger stories. Today, Autodesk’s solutions span countless industries empowering innovators everywhere. But the company is restless to do more. Autodesk doesn’t believe in waiting for progress, it believes in making it. By combining and recombining technologies. By blurring boundaries, reinventing rules, and merging fields. By unleashing talent and unlocking insights across industries. By helping customers converge on solutions to the challenges everyone faces today. Autodesk believes that with the right tools to work and think flexibly comes the power to transform what actually needs making. The power to design and make a better world for all.

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

  • Riley Herbst is ready for his latest challenge as he and the No. 98 Monster Energy team head to Portland (Ore.) International Raceway for the first of back-to-back West-Coast NASCAR Xfinity Series road-course races. After his seventh-place finish May 11 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Herbst encountered bad luck last Saturday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He qualified 19th after struggling with the hot and slick Charlotte oval, and in the opening laps of the race, the driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse was a big mover, working his way up to 11th by lap 29. But contact with A.J. Allmendinger after passing him on the backstretch on that same lap ended Herbst’s day. He’s now hoping the change of scenery in the next two weekends yields positive results.
  • Saturday’s race at Portland will mark Herbst’s third Xfinity Series start at the track. In the rainy 2022 inaugural race there, Herbst put on a show in the opening laps, racing his way from 14th to third during a downpour. Untimely incidents then put him back in the pack, and his day ended 35 laps into the 75-lap event when he got collected in a seven-car accident. In last year’s race, Herbst was running well in the top-10, earning stage points in the opening two stages, but an engine issue took him out of contention with 10 laps to go in the race. He also competed in the ARCA Menards Series West race there last year, contending for the win until lap 43, when engine issues foiled his bid.
  • While Herbst looks to make another breakthrough Xfinity Series run this weekend, he’ll try to capitalize on the momentum from his string of strong road-course outings the past two seasons. In 2022, Herbst earned top-10s in three of his six road-course starts. Last year, he had strong runs at a majority of the eight road-course races, qualifying in the top-10 at five of the eight. He started the 2023 season with his 10th-place finish at COTA and looked to be well on his way to another top-10 in the June 3 race at Portland until the engine issue that forced him to retire early. He earned a fifth-place finish after starting fourth in the July race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He ended the road-course portion of the schedule with a fourth-place finish Oct. 7 on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval just one week before he scored his first career Xfinity Series win Oct. 14 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
  • The “West Coast Kid” will showcase his West-Coast sponsor on the hood of his Ford Mustang Dark Horse for the back-to-back races at Portland and Sonoma. Based in Corona, California, Monster Energy is the leading marketer of energy drinks and alternative beverages. Refusing to acknowledge the traditional, the company supports the scene and sport. Monster Energy is a brand that believes in authenticity and the core of what its sports partnerships, athletes and musicians represent. More than a drink, it’s the way of life lived by athletes, sports, bands, believers and fans. The company has supported Herbst since his young racing days on the West Coast all the way to his select starts in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 00 Autodesk / Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Portland was the site of your first Xfinity Series road-course win and your first win of the 2023 season. How excited are you to go back to a place where you got that breakthrough win?

“I’m really excited to head back to Portland. Honestly, I wouldn’t have considered myself a road-course ringer like I seemed to be last year, but I’ve always enjoyed this style of racing. It leaves a lot of power in the driver’s hands. You can have a fast racecar and set everything up perfectly, but at the end of the day a lot of how well you do is up to the driver. Last year at Portland, I made a mistake in the second-to-last restart and missed the first turn. Coming to the final restart, I figured there was a possibility that the leaders could do the exact same thing. I ended up being right and was able to get around them for the lead. To not only win, but win in that epic battle is just that much better and shows what myself and the team can do. I’m confident the guys will bring me another fast car this weekend, but the competition is steep in the Xfinity Series field. Hopefully, we can come out on top again.”

With just the one start in the Xfinity Series at Portland, how do you prepare to set yourself up for more success?

“I definitely leaned on Riley last year as I prepared for Portland. Now, we have a year and a win under our belts, so we can contribute to the strategy as well. He still has more experience there than I do. He was such a big help last year, and now I can contribute more and help the team overall. On top of that, we’ve got several road courses under our belt where we won or performed really well. I think we’re building a good road-course notebook on the Stewart-Haas Xfinity Series team. We’ve been in contention at most of the road courses over the past year, so it’ll be interesting to see what we can do this weekend and for the rest of the season. There are back-to-back road courses coming up, so we have two shots to go for the win on a road course.”

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

Portland marks the second road course of the 2024 season. Despite your finishes, you have shown speed at Portland and at other road courses. How have you been preparing to continue to show your speed, and also change your luck here?

“Portland is such a tough track. It’s obviously a newer track that many of us haven’t raced on outside of a few ARCA Menards Series runs and the two prior Xfinity Series races. With limited practice and the first year being run in the rain, we haven’t really had a chance to get to learn the track. We’ve been going to sim and getting seat time in other series the past few years, but nothing beats just getting in your car and running a race there. That’s really how you learn because anything can happen during these races. We just have to stay out of trouble in order to turn our luck around. There are a lot of turns where you can get turned, so it’s all about getting through the race without an incident. Hoping we can do that this weekend.”

This will be your third race at Portland in the Xfinity Series, and you’ve had some strong runs on road courses the past two seasons in both the Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series. What are your expectations for the weekend?

“You never know what to expect from road courses. We had a fast No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang when we came here the past two years and different incidents took us out of the race. Honestly, despite the early end to our days both years, I still really like this track overall. It’s fun for a driver and also a challenge, which makes it that much better for us. There’s a lot that we can do in the car as a driver unlike other tracks where a lot of it relies on fast pit stops and strategy from the team. When you have long laps and less pit stops, it puts more in our hands. We’re not doing any extra racing this weekend like I’ve done in the past, so our focus is solely on this Xfinity race. After Charlotte and last year’s race at Portland, I’m just hoping to turn our luck around.”

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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