It took seven races in 2014 for Cole Custer to make headlines in NASCAR when he become the youngest driver to win a NASCAR national touring series race, winning a Camping World Truck Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at the age of 16 years, seven months and 28 days old.
Custer, in his second year as a NASCAR Next class member, is a few weeks removed from his second win at Gateway Motorsports Park while driving a truck with a broken air conditioner. When NASCAR Talk spoke with the part-time driver for JR Motorsports, he was preparing for today’s K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway (airs July 1 on NBCSN).
This Q&A has been edited and condensed.
NASCAR Talk: What does it mean to you to be selected to the NASCAR Next class for a second time?
Cole Custer: It’s just a huge honor, because of all great drivers who have come through the program like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson and all those guys are racing in the Cup Series right now. Whenever you’re in that kind of a program, you’re honoring something we want to do as drivers.
NT: I saw on your website the first time you ever raced was in a quarter midget that was behind Randy LaJoie’s shop. What do you remember about that and how well do you know Randy LaJoie?
Custer: I can’t remember a ton from that experience because I was so young, I was only like 4 years old. I remember I really liked it when I first started and wanted to keep doing it. Randy was gracious enough to let us use a little track behind his shop. We’ve always been great friends with Randy and I’ve always used his seats. I still use his seats in the Truck series and everything. He’s just a great guy and a guy you’d like to know.
NT: What’s your best Randy LaJoie story?
Custer: I honestly don’t know, there’s so many stories you could probably tell about Randy LaJoie. He’s just a really fun and outgoing guy to be around. Everybody likes him in racing, so it’s an honor to be friends with him.
NT: You started racing for JR Motorsports this year. What do you remember about the first time you met Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
Custer: I was really kind of star struck. (I thought) ‘Dale Earnhardt Jr. is now standing in front of you and you’re going to drive for him next year.’ It was really a cool experience and something you’ll (remember) for a lifetime.
NT: If you could put the name of someone on your car who has been an important part of getting you to where you are now, who would it be and why?
Custer: Probably my dad (Joe Custer). He got me into it and helped me with a lot of my career so I would definitely say my dad.
(Editor’s note: Joe Custer is the executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing)
NT: There’s a picture of you on your website from when you were little in a blue go kart and there’s a Haas sticker on it. How far back does that relationship go?
Custer: I’ve always had a connection with Haas. I’m really thankful to be honest for what he’s done for my career. Without him, I wouldn’t be here right now. I owe a lot to me and I’m trying to do my best every weekend.
NT: What do you consider your theme song?
Custer: Probably, right now, my favorite song is “Say it ain’t So” by Weezer, but I honestly don’t know.
NT: What do you like about Weezer and that song?
Custer: I like the music, just how the guitar is and how all instruments come together. I like how they are. I don’t know a ton about music (laughs).
NT: Last week you had your high school finals. What’s your favorite subject in school?
Custer: Probably history.
NT: What’s your favorite era in history?
Custer: Probably the Revolution or Civil War period, that’s probably what I like the most. I like American history the most.
NT: Do you have any plans to attend college?
Custer: I’m not really sure right now if I’ll do college. It’s kind of up in the air.
NT: If you do go to college, would you choose history as your major?
Custer: I don’t know, you kind of want an engineering degree if you want to work in racing. That would be one of the front runners for a major, but history is another one I would like to learn about.
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