Not many drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series are as hot as the Stewart-Haas Racing camp. Kevin Harvick has eight straight top 10’s, including seven consecutive top five finishes to go along with two victories in that span. Aric Almirola has nine straight top 10 finishes in his No. 10 Ford. Also, rookie Cole Custer is starting to heat up. Custer, has scored four top eight finishes in his last five tries.
It all started with that push on the final restart on July 5 in the Brickyard 400. Custer, pushed Kevin Harvick to the front with Harvick earning his third Brickyard triumph and Custer coming home fifth. A week later, he’d win in thrilling fashion at the Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400.
A win wasn’t supposed to happen in 2020. Being a winner as a rookie, especially during a pandemic, wasn’t what we thought would occur this year.
Prior to that win in Kentucky, Custer had just two top 10 finishes all year. But, a win is a win no matter how you have to look at it as it also put him into the All-Star race at Bristol as well as the playoffs as well.
“For a rookie season, I look at it as a success with a win,” Custer said. “I feel like we are getting to the point where we are consistently running competitively.”
He is too. He backed that up with a seventh place run in Kansas and eighth last weekend in Loudon. Now, it’s to Michigan for a doubleheader weekend. It’s a place he’s obviously never raced a Cup car at either.
“I think I have a good rhythm down for going to a track I haven’t been to before,” said Custer. “You really have to work into it. That first run up until the competition caution is really important. You have to make sure you put yourself in a good spot and don’t put your car at risk. Once you get to the competition caution, then you really go racing.
“You try and adapt as fast as you can and make sure you’re paying attention to what is working and what is not. In my opinion, the race starts right after the competition caution.”
He has two chances this weekend, then it’s to Daytona for two of the final four races with a Dover doubleheader being the meat in the Daytona sandwich. After that, it’s to Darlington to kick off the playoffs in the Southern 500.
Custer, knows he will be a part of the postseason and even though it was wildly unexpected, he’s not going to be happy even being this season deemed as a success with a win, if he gets bounced early.
“I’m not going to be satisfied if we get to the playoffs and we get knocked out in the first round and don’t run well,” Custer said. “I want to go in the playoffs and make a run at it, not just be part of it. If the end of the season doesn’t work out, I don’t think I’ll be satisfied.”
So far, I’d say if he keeps running like this, the No. 41 Ford will be a tough out this Fall.