Now that Daytona is in the rear view mirror, most in the NASCAR garages say the real season starts this week in Atlanta. For Cole Custer, he’s hoping his No. 00 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing is just as good on 1.5-mile tracks as it was last year, because the “real season” would be off to a great start.
Last weekend, Custer started 14th and finished there.
Now, Saturday’s Rinnai 250 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the first of 11 races this season on 1.5-mile tracks. A year ago, Custer had four top-five finishes on 1.5-mile tracks – April 8 and Nov. 4 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (fifth each time), Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (fifth) and Nov. 18 at Homestead (first). He also finished in the top-10 at three other venues – March 4 at Atlanta (10th), May 27 and Oct. 7 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (seventh and sixth, respectively) and Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois (seventh).
At Homestead, the season finale, Custer won his first and only XFINITY Series race and did so by a wide 15.405 seconds. He also won both stages that day as well.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to the 1.5-mile tracks because those were our strong suits last year,” Custer said. “I’m fairly confident racing at Atlanta, too. We ran well there last year and I learned a ton from Kevin Harvick so, hopefully, the second time back will be even better. Atlanta was our very first 1.5-mile track we ran in the Xfinity Series, too. I can’t wait to see what speed we will bring our second time around.
“Atlanta is awesome because of how much grip you start out with and how fast you lose it. And once you lose it, it’s fun to slip and slide out there. The whole weekend, you’re just going to be trying to keep the tires in good shape. It’s extremely fun for the drivers since we get to slip around a ton. One of our biggest goals is to just have a solid race. We’re looking to execute our plan and have a fast Haas Automation Mustang to kick off our 2018 intermediate-track program.”