By: Cole Cusumano
With seven races remaining until the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, if you’re locked in it’s all about finding consistency and getting things fine-tuned. For Rookie of the Year contender, Cole Custer, he’s already accomplished what he calls a successful debut season after winning at Kentucky Speedway. Now locked into a postseason-spot, the California-native has his sights set on new goals in order to be fully content with his 2020 bid.
Riding the momentum from his first top-five en route to his first career premier series victory, Custer has gone on to finish in the top-10 three of the last four events. Even more impressively, he’s been able to achieve these results after starting 24th or worse. In order to capitalize on points and remain competitive once returning to Darlington Raceway, the No. 41 team will need to encapsulate more of this relentless fire in order to be successful.
“I’m not gonna be satisfied if we go into the Playoffs and get knocked out in the first round and don’t run well,” Custer revealed. “I think these next eight or nine races we need to be on our game and be on the gas as hard as we can to try and figure everything out and get in a good rhythm and be able to do something once we get into the playoffs, because after the season if you don’t have the end of the season work out, you’re not gonna be satisfied.”
With the exception of a late-race incident that resulted in a 39th-place finish, there’s no denying Custer has been one of the more consistent drivers in the field recently. As is typically the case with most rookies, it took half a season to get it figured out, but this upward trend is a result of the cohesion and growth amongst his Stewart-Haas Racing team.
The Ford Performance driver credits a majority of this to his crew chief of two years, Mike Shiplett. The sport veteran has been able to get his team in contention numerous times via pit strategy and impeccable leadership that’s been able to rally the No. 41 crew all year.
“I feel like we’ve hit a point where we kind of know what we want to bring to the racetrack,” Custer said. “I think we’re starting to get better and better with it and figuring out how we should compare to other cars and how we should attack different race tracks. It gets better and better as it goes and the more laps and the more races you get, the more it’s all gonna come together.”
Custer will take the green flag from 14th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. He finished runner-up in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year at Loudon to Christopher Bell. The 22-year-old may be 90 points behind Tyler Reddick in the Rookie of the Year standings, but he’s the only one with a Cup Series victory and a shot at the title.