Ford Performance NASCAR: Custer-Stewart Press Conference Transcript

Ford Notes and Quotes
Ford EcoBoost 300 (Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL.)
Saturday, November 17, 2018

· Cole Custer’s second-place finish in tonight’s Ford EcoBoost 300 was good enough to win the 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series owners’ championship for Stewart-Haas Racing.
· The win continues a streak that has seen Mustang capture the driver’s or owner’s championship in seven of the eight seasons it has been competing full-time as Ford’s flagship series model.
· This marks the fifth time in the last six seasons Ford has won the owners’ championship with the previous four coming by Team Penske.

2011 — Driver’s Championship (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
2011 — Owner’s Championship (Jack Roush, No. 6)
2012 — Driver’s Championship (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
2013 — Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2014 — Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2015 — Driver’s Championship (Chris Buescher)
2015 — Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2017 — Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)
2018 – Owner’s Championship (Stewart-Haas, No. 00)


COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang — CAN YOU JUST TALK ABOUT YOUR NIGHT TONIGHT? “Yeah, it is a little bittersweet because you win one and you lose one. It means a lot to our team to win the owners championship. When we started last year, it is unbelievable how far we have come and how hard everyone has worked. To get to this point now, I can’t thank everybody enough. We just came up a little short. It just didn’t play out there at the end for us.”

TONY STEWART, owner, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang — YOUR FIRST XFINITY SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP AND YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO DO IT AGAIN TOMORROW: “Like Cole said, we all think it is bittersweet. We are proud as an organization to get the owner’s champions but we wanted to do it with our driver winning the driver’s championship. Cole did an awesome job, the whole team did an awesome job all year. That is the hard part about the last race is that it is down to a one race deal and we just fell a little short. We might have made a mistake on the strategy on pitting too late. Like Cole said, he got to his bumper there and I thought we were in good shape but the balance shifted on him. You take the lump and at the same time like I said, we are excited about the championship on the owner side but the goal was to twin Cole a driver championship and we would get ours that way as well. We will just come back next year and try to get him one. I am excited that we were able to get Ford their first one for the weekend and hopefully get another for them tomorrow for sure. I am excited about our Xfinity program in such a short amount of time to have cars and the personnel that can put these cars up front each weekend and excited about having a second full time car next year. More resources for Cole and another young driver and we are excited about the program. It is an awesome day for us but it would be a hell of a lot more exciting if Cole was out there hoisting the trophy over his head for winning the drivers championship. We came up short but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. I am proud of Cole as a driver, he has come a long way and keeps getting better and better.”

COLE CUSTER CONTINUED: WHAT CHANGED IN YOUR CAR OVER THE RUN? “Just what happened there at the end. I feel like we had to kind of makeup that time and we had newer tires so it was somewhat easy to make up the time but you kind of get to a point on tires where it starts to equal out and I felt like that kind of happened. Tyler also just ran the top better than I could. I couldn’t get up there like he could. He practiced that all weekend and I wasn’t good enough at it I guess. I guess that is something to practice for next year. I feel like I did pretty much everything right this race, it was just that last run that fell a little bit short.”

TONY STEWART CONTINUED: “As far as our side we were excited when we were able to start the Xfinity program, excited because we were putting Cole in the car. I feel like there was a big improvement with his confidence between last year and this year. We will see what happens next year. You just kind of play it a year at a time and watch his development and see what happens.”

COLE CUSTER CONTINUED: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY FROM A DRIVING STANDPOINT OR WAS IT JUST THE CAR WOULDN’T LET YOU DO WHAT YOU NEEDED TO DO? “I thought I could have stayed a little more committed to it but the problem is if you try to commit more and more to it you are going to hit the wall. It is a balance that he kind of did it the whole race and got a feel for it and I tried to run a lane off the wall. I just didn’t have a feel for it there and wasn’t aggressive enough with it at the end. I think the car probably could have done it. I think it was more of a driving thing that I could have practiced a little more this weekend.”

TONY STEWART CONTINUED: CAN YOU CONFIRM THAT COLE IS BACK FOR YOU NEXT YEAR UNCHANGED AND DO YOU HAVE ANY DETAILS YOU CAN SHARE ABOUT THE SECOND CAR? “Nothing on the second one yet but definitely Cole will be back next year on this thing. He is doing a great job and it is something we are excited about seeing him grow in his confidence next year and keeping that side of the program the way it is for right now.”

YOU GUYS HAVE CREATED A WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH DIBIAGGIO, WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE? “They just let us do our own thing, really and that is what is nice having them as a partner. They have entrusted us to run the thing and let us do what we need to do. They have been great partners. I would have liked to seen them up there with us tonight when this was over. You have to have good partners in this industry and they have been great partners so far.”

DID YOU SEE THIS POTENTIAL IN TYLER REDDICK OR WAS IT SURPRISING TO YOU? “I have seen that. What he did tonight was remarkable. To be that committed to that line, that close to the wall, every time you get in the wall you don’t know how much damage it has done and you saw what happened to Christopher Bell there. It very easily could have happened to Tyler as well. I think it was 110 or 120 laps there where he committed to running the top like that. It is extremely hard to do what he did and be that committed to it. I think we saw him hit the wall four times in that 110-120 laps. That is four mistakes but at the same time he only made it four times. That is pretty impressive. He was fourth of the championship drivers when he made the change to move all the way to the top and we were sitting on the box wondering if he could do that the whole time. He stuck it out and he made it work for him. That is what the difference was. This guy and Christopher can run the top just as good as anybody else but to be that committed to it and do that for that many laps was pretty remarkable.”

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN COLE MATURE? “The biggest thing is confidence. You can see it in his driving. You especially can see it when he gets in traffic, how much confidence he has. It is just part of the process. I think when we get through the winter and get started next year you will see it go up another level.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT JGR’S DECISION TO GIVE THE PIT STALL SELECTION TO KYLE? “It is a smart decision. If we were in the same position I would hope we would be smart enough to do the same thing. I have seen the drama and people complaining but there are four teams here to win the championship and if your organization can help you with that, give you every tool available, they would be stupid not to. I am behind what JGR did 100-percent. You have to do that. You have to put yourself in the best position to win the race and the championship. They made a very, very smart decision.”

COLE CUSTER CONTINUED: IS IT POSSIBLE THAT AFTER THE PIT STOP YOU RACED TOO HARD AND BURNED OFF YOUR TIRES AND COULDN’T CHALLENGE AT THE END? “A little bit. I had to race John Hunter a little bit and probably burned them up a little more than the other runs but I don’t think it really came down to that. I think it was more that he could run the top better at the end of a run. You could see at the end of a run at the first two stages I would pull out and ride around for 30 laps but the last 10 laps someone would start catching me because they could run the wall better. I just couldn’t do that good enough today.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE FOUR OF YOU REALLY DID SETTLE THINGS ON THE RACE TRACK TODAY, RACING CLOSE AND HAVING ONE OF YOU GUYS WIN THE RACE: “Yeah, it was a good race. I have a lot of fun racing the guys in the series this year. We race hard but race clean. I don’t think anybody has a problem with anybody. It was a great group and great Championship 4. We wanted to come out on top but it is what it is.”


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