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XFINITY

Cole Custer Asserting Himself as Early Season Championship Favorite

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While most of the competition is focused on making the playoffs, Cole Custer does not have to worry about that virtue of a pair of wins just eight races into the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

It is a feeling that he is enjoying due to not second-guessing himself and Stewart-Haas Racing.

“Now we know that we can win and have the capability to win, it is just a matter of putting it together every weekend and having good notes when we come back to places for a second time and hitting it right,” he said. “I think we can do that; it is just a matter of more time being able to help us.”

Custer is no stranger to winning races as he has done that previously in his Xfinity Series career. However, the big difference is how early the victories have come this time around compared to previous. The past two seasons, he has only scored one win a year – the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2017 and race No. 31 of 33 at Texas Motor Speedway in 2018. 

This season, though, he won the fifth (Auto Club Speedway) and eighth (Richmond Raceway) events on the schedule.

“I think when you get a win earlier in the year, it takes a lot of stress off because you know your team can win and you are doing things right and it is just a matter of perfecting it,” he commented. “It just takes the stress off to be able to go out there and be aggressive and keep the momentum going and build up points for the playoffs.”

The success by Custer has been surprising, as entering the year, a lot of people expected Christopher Bell to run away with the title. While Bell has won on two occasions like Custer, he currently ranks second in the standings behind last year’s series champion Tyler Reddick with Custer in third. Reddick has yet to visit victory lane this year, but he has scored only two finishes outside of the top-five, with the worst being 14th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

“I think we are right there,” Custer said in comparison to Bell. “We need to be a little bit better and I think we are going to get better as the year goes on as me and Mike work together and we go to these tracks for a second time. We get our cars better throughout the races. We just need a little bit more but we want to beat the 20 guys.

“Christopher is a great driver and Gibbs is a great organization but we have the capability of being the best team out there, so that is our goal.”

Custer will hope to score another victory, along with another $100,000 cheque as part of the Dash 4 Cash program, this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Entering the weekend, he states that he will be aggressive throughout the MoneyLion 300.

“We have two wins now so we can kind of do what we want,” he said. “You have to be aggressive and make the big moves and save some of it for the end. Also you have to make those moves to be comfortable with it at the end. It is a matter of keeping it up front and out of trouble but on that edge of being aggressive but not too aggressive.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.