Interview: Cole Custerby Kyle Pokrefky June 25, 2014
Photo Credit: NASCAR
The Fourth Turn was able to land an interview with one of the young prospects in the stock car world, 16-year-old Cole Custer from Ladera Ranch, California.
Custer is a member of the 2014-2015 NASCAR Next class and has four career wins across both the East and West divisions of the K&N Pro Series. Custer is also coming off of a solid sixth-place finish at the Gateway Motorsports Park in the Camping World Truck Series, where he drives for Haas Racing Development using Turner Scott Motorsports equipment.
In this exclusive interview with The Fourth Turn, Custer discusses both his strong finish at Gateway and his most recent race at the Sonoma Raceway in the K&N Pro Series West. Also discussed are Custer’s racing plans for both this year and the near future; we even get to discussing the accuracy of esteemed racing simulator iRacing.
How would you say your race at Sonoma went?
We came there to do what we wanted to do, we said that we had speed and we could obviously contend for a top-five. In the race, we were saving our tires and just biding our time. I got a little bit too anxious and tried to pass going into Turn 11 and wheel-hopped it and that kind of ended our day. But we were fast and it was a very successful weekend I think.
Taking a look at the results, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was your teammate for the weekend?
Yeah, he was part of Bill McAnally Racing.
With him as your teammate, were there any discussions between the two of you on how to best attack the race track?
I talked to him maybe once and he seemed like he really knew what he was doing. He helped me a little bit but I think we took to the track pretty quick – we didn’t have much time to just mess around so we took to it pretty quick. We were top-10, top-five from the very start of the weekend.
What was your opinion on seeing five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars entered for the race?
It was pretty cool because you don’t see that very often, you don’t usually get to race against guys with that kind of talent so it was awesome. I was very anxious to see how they would race and I think it was just an awesome opportunity to see how those guys would race and how I could race them and how to compare yourself to them.
Prior to Saturday’s race, you never raced at the Sonoma Raceway before. What kind of preparation did you do to get ready for Saturday’s race?
It was a really long race, we had to hydrate a lot and be in pretty good shape. Leading up to the race, we ran some road course races last year that helped me a lot and I think that got me into a road course kind of mindset of what you’re supposed to be doing. I kind of knew what I was going to do and I iRaced a little bit and just looked a lot of film too.
Just wondering about iRacing, how accurate would you say it is in terms of replicating what the actual track conditions are?
I think it depends on how big of a system you have – like how good of one. It really has the visuals right, it looks almost like a lot of the same – you can have a lot of reference points that are similar. The problem is that you can’t really feel the cars. It’s good for reference points but I don’t think it’s going to get you the whole deal of everything.
You finished fifth at Road Atlanta last year, were you able to take anything from that result and apply it to Sonoma?
Yeah, there’s some similarities with Atlanta and Sonoma. There were a couple of hairpin turns at Road Atlanta and it was mostly high speed – that helped me up the esses and then there were a couple hairpin turns which helped me with throttle control.
Moving on to the Camping World Truck Series, it’s been an impressive start to your career in the series – you’ve had three straight top-15 finishes and a top-10 at Gateway. How easy was it to transition from a K&N Series car to a truck?
It wasn’t too bad because the trucks just make so much downforce, they’re real fun to race in because you can attack the corners so much. I think those couple of top-15 finishes could have been top-10 or top-five finishes and I think those two results don’t exactly replicate our speed but I think it’s been awesome and my crew chief and Turner Scott Motorsports have just done a great job and have given me great cars every single weekend.
I’m just going to piggyback off of your answer; looking back to Gateway, do you think you could have done anything any differently to improve your result or were you getting everything out of the truck that you could?
I think the first couple of restarts I could have done better – I don’t think I got the best jump. And then on the first restart when we had the lead I shouldn’t have chosen the inside but that’s one of the things that you’re probably not going to figure out until you [know] what the first restart does. That’s just kind of unlucky but I think we just got unlucky when we pitted because when we had to pit, we went in a little early and a caution’d come out every single time so we were just unlucky there. When we got back there it got really hard to pass; we were able to come back to sixth though so it was a good day.
On Lap 74 of the race, you had a bit of a coming together with Ray Black Jr. after getting loose underneath him. Was there any communication with Ray afterwards on your behalf to explain what happened?
No, I never go to talk to him – I feel really that that was all my fault. That’s something you don’t want to have happen and what you don’t want to be known for. That was just – I was racing hard on the restart trying to get back up there, we got back there on a pit stop and we got into Turn 3 and I think… took some air off off of our truck and then there were a couple bumps going into Turn 3 on the bottom so that didn’t help the situation at all. Overall, it was my fault and I take full responsibility for that – I’m going to try and do my best to not have that happen again.
Are you running the rest of the Camping World Truck Series season on all of the tracks that you are eligible to run on? (Less than 1.5-miles due to Cole being 16.)
I’m pretty sure – except for Eldora where I’m not going to run.
Were you looking forward to running at Eldora?
Well, we never had that scheduled. I’ve run dirt before so I think that was one of the ones that I thought would have been really fun to race – I thought maybe we could have had a chance at it. When you look at it, it’s not – I don’t want to say worth it – but you don’t see Cup or Nationwide doing it and it’s hard to spend all that money to go all the way out there and just kind of tear apart a good truck.
Maybe next year though, right?
For your K&N schedule, what does that look like for the rest of the year? Is there a mix of East and West races?
We just have Phoenix left in the West and we have some more big tracks in the East and a couple road courses in the East so that’s pretty much what we’re doing in the K&N stuff.
You’re currently 16 so you’re only eligible to run Truck races on tracks that are less than a mile-and-a-half long. What’s the plan for you before you turn 18, is it to continue what you’re doing now?
I would say that and just next year I could maybe do an ARCA race at some big track but we don’t even know if we’re going to do that or not. That’s one of the possibilities that we could add to the schedule but right now it’s pretty much – until I’m 18 – to just [continue] what I’m doing.
This is probably completely preliminary at this point but have there been any discussions on what to do once you turn 18 like maybe do Trucks full-time or perhaps run in the Nationwide Series?
We don’t exactly know yet. We’ll see and hope for the best.