NASCAR’s Next Generation: Cole Custer

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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.

NTYou 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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Christopher Bell’s car damaged by man-hole cover

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CONCORD, N.C. — There is a slightly different traffic pattern in the Xfinity Series garage this weekend after Christopher Bell‘s front end was damaged by a man-hole cover early in practice Thursday.

The splitter on Bell’s No. 20 Toyota was damaged by the man-hole cover, which is located at the end of the garage where the cars run through as they exit the garage.

Bell’s team made repairs quickly and he was able to continue.

As a result, NASCAR has placed traffic cones in the area to divert traffic around the area.

The man-hole cover that damaged Christopher Bell’s car (Daniel McFadin)
The traffic cones set up to keep cars from running over the man-hole cover (middle cone) (Daniel McFadin)

Daniel Hemric fastest in first Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Hemric was fastest in the first Cup Series practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

Hemric posted a top speed of 182.791 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He was followed by Chase Elliott (182.340 mph), William Byron (182.211), Kyle Busch (182.168) and Jimmie Johnson (182.008).

Alex Bowman was seventh to put all four Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top 10.

Austin Dillon in eighth gave Chevrolet six cars in the top 10.

Landon Cassill recorded the most laps in the session with 37. He was 32nd on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

Shane Lee to drive for new Xfinity team with Circuit City sponsorship

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CONCORD, N.C. — Former Richard Childress Racing driver Shane Lee will compete for a new Xfinity Series team, H2 Motorsports, the team announced Thursday at Charlotte Motor speedway

Owned by 23-year-old entrepreneur and venture capitalist Matt Hurley, the team will be sponsored by Circuit City and will field Lee in the No. 28 Toyota with support from Toyota Racing Development. They’ll debut June 16 at Iowa Speedway with plans to compete for the rest of the season.

Circuit City, which is primarily an online store now, was notably a sponsor of Hut Stricklin from 1996-98 in the Cup Series.

“I grew up an avid race fan, my parents are from the Midwest and I’ve followed the sport very, very closely since I was a young kid,” Hurley said. “More recently felt like there was an opportunity to go into the sport and bring some of our invested brands back into the sport. I’ve really taken an interest in kind of trying to find a way in.

“We felt like now is the right time to enter the sport, to come in in a competitive way. … Felt like TRD was the right partner to help us do that in a competitive way.”

Lee, 25, competed in the Xfinity Series last year, making 13 starts in RCR’s No. 3 Chevrolet. His best result and only top five was a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in October.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Lee said. “I met Matt at a couple races last year. We actually became pretty good friends and we weren’t really even working on a racing deal. Probably January or February we started talking about the race deal and wanting to get into racing. We sort of went from there and he got himself figured out and he really went down the line and hired some really good people.”

Lee will be paired with crew chief Pete Rondeau. Rondeau has 103 Cup races to his name, including as crew chief for Regan Smith’s 2011 Southern 500 win.

Rondeau also has one Xfinity Series win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol in 2004.

“I’ve had a history of accepting challenges,” Rondeau said. “As we did with Furniture Row team, we worked hard and … it ended up flourishing into a championship-caliber team. To me this is no different right here. We have a good core group and I’m happy to work with them. It’s going to be fun and a whole lot of work at the same time.”

Gallery: Coca-Cola 600 patriotic paint schemes

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With Memorial Day weekend here, many NASCAR teams will be racing patriotic paint schemes in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s a look at the unique schemes that will compete in NASCAR’s longest race.

All photos by Daniel McFadin.

Landon Cassill – No. 00 Chevrolet

Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford

Ryan Newman – No. 6 Ford

Aric Almirola – No. 10 Ford

Ty Dillon – No. 13 Chevrolet

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 17 Ford

William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet

Corey LaJoie – No. 32 Ford

 

Michael McDowell – No. 34 Ford

Matt Tifft – No. 36 Ford

David Ragan – No. 36 Ford

Ryan Preece – No. 47 Chevrolet

Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet

Cody Ware – No. 51 Ford

Bayley Currey – No. 52 Ford

BJ McLeod – No. 53 Chevrolet

Alex Bowman – No. 88 Chevrolet