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.

Previous NASCAR Next Q&A’s:

Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 p.m.. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 98 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Decker provided this update Saturday morning.