Cole Custer. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard)

Custer Rides Hot Streak Entering Richmond

Fresh off his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, Cole Custer undoubtedly had a target on his back entering this season.

As the defending champion, Custer is the driver every full-time competitor in the Xfinity Series wants to beat. 

Through the first two races of the season, it was a murky start for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who tallied a best finish of 13th and was 11th in the standings.

However, after three straight top-five finishes, Custer is back to form. The uptick in performance has vaulted the driver of the No. 00 Ford to third in the standings. 

Custer feels the team’s recent rise shows its determination, even when things on race day don’t go as well as they feel they should. 

“It builds some confidence just because I feel like even on our not best days recently we’ve been able to run top five and have good points and be able to really maximize as good as we could,” Custer said. “I feel like when we do have the days that we want and the speed that we want, we’re gonna really be able to make it happen. 

“It’s just trying to get that on a consistent basis, but I feel like all the guys in the shop are working extremely hard right now and I think we have some good stuff coming right now, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

Putting everything together is crucial at this part of the season in the Xfinity Series. Without an off weekend until the beginning of May, setting the tone and ironing out any issues on the fly is key to not falling behind. 

“It’s huge just trying to get your bearings straight,” Custer said. “You have to figure out your problems now and try to really address everything and using the off-weekends to your advantage to try and get ahead on things because when it goes to that stretch it’s very easy to get behind, so you just have to try to keep up with it right now and really get ahead on what your problems are and try to fix them. 

“I think that will set you up through the whole stretch.”

Entering this weekend at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, a big storyline will be tire management. As Custer puts it, “Richmond is probably the most similar to being on ice without ice skates.” 

For Custer, having a solid balance on his race car will help combat tire wear, which he feels starts to become a factor “after about five laps.”

“It’s all you can to keep the tires on it,” Custer said. “I mean, it will kill them after five laps, so you definitely have to have the car balance good to keep the tires on it, but then you have your job as a driver to try and make sure you don’t overslip the tires and kill them.”

Custer guns for his first win of the season and second at Richmond’s three-quarter-mile track on Saturday.