After one partial and three full seasons, Cole Custer has made 104 Xfinity starts with nine wins (8.7%), 39 top-fives (37.5%), and 71 top-10s (68.3%). He’s led 1,613 laps (9.1%) and finished on the same lap as the leaders 83 times (79.8%). Custer will enter the 2020 Rookie of the Year battle with the same yeoman-like attitude that carried him through the second series.
More important, he has earned the confidence of car owners Gene Haas and Tony Stewart – something that it never really seemed was the case for the former driver of this car, Daniel Suarez.
Custer’s nine wins in the Xfinity series came on a variety of tracks and in his relatively short career in Xfinity, he never won on the same course twice. He came close on four occasions with two runner-up finishes accompanying a win at Homestead and second-place finishes at Darlington and Dover to accompany his victories there.
Those last two tracks are particularly important because their characteristic matches the driver. In some ways Custer is a throwback to drivers like Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker – thick-necked drivers who can tackle the toughest courses NASCAR visits like the rough-surfaced Darlington Raceway and Dover International Speedway. By extension, that suggests one might also want to watch Custer closely at Bristol as well.
The next set of tracks that demand attention are the unrestricted, intermediate speedways and the flat tracks.
With previous wins at Texas, Chicagoland, Kentucky, and Auto Club as well as second-place finishes at Charlotte and Atlanta, he has the control to do well on NASCAR’s fastest courses. Stewart-Haas Racing certainly has the horsepower to allow him to finish in the front half of the pack there. All four of the No. 41 team’s top-fives came at Texas and the two-mile Michigan International Speedway.
Custer has wins at Pocono and Richmond – two of NASCAR’s flat tracks – with second-place results at New Hampshire and Phoenix. Martinsville should also fit his driving style, since Custer’s Richmond win is accompanied by a second at Iowa Speedway.
While Custer’s three previous Cup starts from 2018 don’t tell fantasy players a lot about his chances in a full time ride, he actually performed relatively well considering the caliber of equipment he had under him. Custer finished either 25th or 26th in three starts Las Vegas, Pocono, and Richmond in Rick Ware’s No. 51 with sponsorship – and one would presume significant financial support – from Haas’ company.
It is also notable that these three courses all fit into Custer’s comfort zone of unrestricted, intermediate speedways and flat tracks. Custer won’t exactly swagger into them, but his familiarity with them make it worthwhile to bookmark those five weekends.
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