The four NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship contenders met with the media individually on Thursday afternoon.
Have you been informed that you will be driving in the Cup next year for Stewart?Haas Racing?
COLE CUSTER: I mean, right now, I’m just trying to focus on the championship. I’ve really tried to kind of stay out of it, I mean, honestly, this is a really big weekend for us, I mean to win a championship in the Xfinity Series, so if we can do that that’s probably my focus this next week.
COLE CUSTER: Like I said, I’m mostly just focused on the championship. I’m not really ?? I kind of tried to stay out of all that.
Presumably, if you were a Cup car for 2020, what will your expectations be?
COLE CUSTER: I mean, that’s a tough question. I mean, you kind of take it one week at a time. And everybody wants to run good, nobody wants to run bad, so I think you kind of are going to figure it out when you get there.
The way you ran here the last two years, does it make you the favorite going into this thing?
COLE CUSTER: Oh, it’s hard for a driver really to say that you’re the favorite or anything like that. We been really good on mile?and?a?halfs, especially low?grip racetracks, so I think we should be good, but at the same time all four of us are going to have fast cars, so it’s who can put the best race together and it all comes down to that last run like we saw last year. So I think whoever puts the best race together overall is going to win it.
With that said, what’s your confidence level going into this thing?
COLE CUSTER: I’m looking forward to it. I think, I mean you can’t be overly confident, that doesn’t do you any good, but at the same time I think we should have a fast car and you just got to take it one step at a time and dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s.
Does Bell have an advantage since he was able to get in an Xfinity car with the new tire at this racetrack?
COLE CUSTER: You know, it’s hard to say. I think everybody wishes they probably would have been down there, but at the same time I don’t think it’s really going to be the difference maker, but I think it should be good. I don’t know, I’m not too worried about it. You got to focus on yourself. It’s not going to do me any good to think about what Christopher’s been doing.
So you won Fontana, Chicago, Darlington, all worn?out asphalt tracks. Why does that suit you?
COLE CUSTER: I don’t know. I think I have a good feel for it, but at the same time I think I’ve had really fast cars there and Mike’s been really good at knowing what the track’s going to do. So it’s just, I don’t know, it’s been just, everything has kind of come together at those racetracks.
The last couple years in the Xfinity Series I feel like we have seen one or maybe two that have kind of stood out above the rest in the Championship 4. But does this kind of shape up as the most evenly matched 4 that we have had?
COLE CUSTER: I’m trying to think who was in the ones before. But I mean, I think we all are pretty equal. I mean, maybe you would say that The 7 car hasn’t maybe had quite the speed, but when it comes down to one race all you got to do is put it together for one race. So I think they’re going to show up and probably be pretty fast, and Justin’s really good on being a bulldog and being good and restarts and stuff like that, so he’s going to have a shot at it at some point.
What’s your general thoughts of racing at Homestead? It’s going to be the last year for the championship being there, but you’ve had a lot of success, just what do you think about racing at Homestead in general?
COLE CUSTER: I think it’s been awesome. I love coming here. You get a little bit of everything. I think it’s been one of the best championship tracks for the last 15 years or however long we have been here. So it’s hard to beat, honestly. But I think that it’s a fun track where you get to run the bottom, the middle, the top, tires fall off, it’s a really great racetrack.
So what have you been doing this week to kind of prepare for this week, both like for the actual race and maybe doing something that kind of gets your mind off of it?
COLE CUSTER: Try to get all my studying and everything done yesterday and just try to have an idea of what I want to do like the first lap I hit the racetrack and every step after that. We actually ?? I had a friendsgiving at Erik Jones’s house, so we got to do that a little bit, but that was fun. That was on Tuesday night, I think. Yeah, that was fun to do, just have some dinner with some friends. But at the same time we got to refocus and get going on this weekend.
Harvick’s been really impressed with your progression. Do you think he’ll be there to lean on once you get to the Cup Series, whenever that might be?
COLE CUSTER: Yeah, I mean Kevin, especially when I first started in the Xfinity Series, I used to talk with him every single weekend. So he’s always been a huge help and I think he’s definitely a big reason of where I am today. So it’s just a matter of ?? there’s always things you can get better, so the more that you can ask questions and stuff like that, it’s always going to help you.
If given the option do you want to take your crew chief with you next year?
COLE CUSTER: I mean that’s something I haven’t really thought about. I’ve kind of tried to stay out of it, like I said. So I think that, I think Mike’s done a great job this year on our car and it’s hard, it’s definitely been a great season for us.
Last year you had a multitude of teammates, you were splitting time between Harvick and Briscoe and now you had Briscoe for the full season as a full?season teammate in the series. Really, what has Chase brought to the Stewart?Haas program and Xfinity this year full?time?
COLE CUSTER: I think it’s good always to have kind of a different thing to kind of bounce off of, different notes and different driving styles and stuff like that. There’s just more stuff going on. They have definitely hit their stride halfway through the year and I think they have been running really good, so I think it’s all been a good thing for sure.
You don’t seem the lease bit nervous, and I’ve known you for quite some time, I’ve interviewed you when you couldn’t even make eye contact with me. But you seem really just ready to hit it. I mean, maybe I’m wrong, but are you as relaxed as you’re coming off?
COLE CUSTER: Well, when you come into this thing, I mean, really stressing isn’t going to do you any good, it’s just focusing on what you got to do. And it’s going to, the cars are going to, you know, weigh how they weigh, it’s just, you’re going of to go out there and do the best job that you can do, but stressing over it is not going to help you at all.
Shiplett been a huge game changer for you? Because when you look at your stats they’re pretty damn stout this year.
COLE CUSTER: Yeah, I think Mike’s been huge and Davin, our lead engineer, he’s been awesome. The experience that they brought and ideas I think it’s definitely all been a good thing. I think I’ve progressed, definitely, my third year I’ve gotten better, so it’s just kind of a combination of everything this year.
What are your plans for the off season?
COLE CUSTER: I don’t really know, honestly. I think that Thanksgiving I’m going to go back to California and see some family. But other than that, probably just try and take some time off and that’s about it.
2017 you had a tremendous run here at Homestead, it was such a big win for you. How do you reminisce on that, what that win meant to you and just having that run at that point in your career two years ago here.
COLE CUSTER: Yeah, I mean that was a huge race for us, just the first win for our Xfinity team and we waited the whole year to do it, so it was a pretty big thing. But definitely I hope we can have that success again here. But it was definitely one of the best cars you can have here and we just got to put it together again this weekend.
Has too much changed? Are you able to take what you did there, obviously into last year, but now into this year?
COLE CUSTER: I think I’m definitely a better driver than I was then and I know better things to look for and stuff like that. So, things always change a little bit, but at the same time the aero package is all the same and stuff like that. So you take things from it and look at it, but at the same time I think I know a lot better of what I want to do.
When you won this race in 2017 you beat second by 15 seconds. I don’t think we can expect that, for sure, but does a race at a track like Homestead lend itself to that kind of action or is it more just based on if somebody gets themselves into trouble as to what could happen?
COLE CUSTER: I think you look at most of the races at Homestead, they have all been pretty close, I mean, for the most part. Last year it came down to the last 30 laps I think or so and even with that really long green flag run it was a good race. So I think it could ?? I think usually they put on good races here, it doesn’t usually get all spread out.
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