Ford Performance NASCAR: Homestead (Cole Custer Media Availability)

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Ford EcoBoost 400 | MEDIA AVAILABILITY

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Mustang in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was officially announced today to drive the No. 41 SHR Cup Series Mustang in 2020. Custer met with media members at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday afternoon to discuss the promotion.

COLE CUSTER: “This is obviously a dream come true. I have been around the garage for a long time and when I was a kid I never thought I would be good enough to be a Cup driver. It is pretty unreal to have that happen. We obviously have a big race tomorrow and that is where our main focus is. It is the biggest race of the season and it all comes down to this race, so that is what we are focused on.”

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ARE YOU RELIEVED THAT THIS NEWS IS OUT THERE NOW AND PEOPLE CAN STOP ASKING YOU ABOUT NEXT YEAR? “Yeah, I mean I didn’t really find out until yesterday really so it is kind of something that is pretty crazy and it is cool to have happen.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO FINALLY REACH THE PINNACLE? “I have Gene Haas to thank a lot for everything that has happened in my racing career. I can’t thank him enough for everything that he has done to support me. I am going to try to prove him right next year and have a strong season. At the same time, I need to focus on today and not worry about it right now but I am definitely looking forward to it.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “No, I think there is always stuff you can learn in whatever series you are in. That is pretty much my outlook on it usually.”

HOW TOUGH DO YOU THINK THE TRANSITION WILL BE? “There is always a lot of stuff to learn and a lot more competition. We usually have about 10-12 cars we are competing against here in the Xfinity Series and when you move up you are racing against 25-30 of them.”

WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT? “Not too long ago.”

TONY (STEWART) SAID EARLIER THAT YOU EARNED THIS RIDE. DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD TO KNOW THE OWNER OF THE TEAM RECOGNIZES WHAT YOU HAVE DONE AND THINKS YOU DESERVE THIS SHOT? “Yeah, it means a ton. Having Gene and Tony, two of the best bosses you can have. Tony is a legend in our sport and someone I watched growing up watching racing on TV. Having someone like that in your corner is huge. Gene Haas, everything he has done for me in my career, I am looking forward to getting in that car and seeing what we can do.”

IS MIKE SHIPLETT GOING WITH YOU NEXT YEAR? “I don’t really know at this time. We are just focused on this race and we will see after the weekend.”

IS THIS A DISTRACTION FOR THIS WEEKEND OR A RELIEF? “I think us drivers are pretty good at blocking things out and focusing on what we have to during the weekend. I am looking forward to getting on the track today and seeing what we’ve got. We have been good here the last couple years. It is a matter of putting it all together.”

WHAT KIND OF A RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH GENE HAAS? “Gene has been huge. I don’t think I would be where I am at today without Gene Haas. I have a lot to live up to. I really want to make him proud. Hopefully we can do a good job. It is going to be a lot of work in the off-season to get ready for it but today we are focused on the championship.”

WHEN THEY TALKED TO YOU AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR AND TOLD YOU THAT THEY WANTED MORE OUT OF YOU, COULD YOU EVEN IMAGINE YOU WOULD BE MOVING UP AT THE END OF THE YEAR? “You always put a lot of pressure on yourself. I know we have fast cars and stuff like that so you try to find ways and look at yourself to see what you can do better. I know there are still things that I can do better. It is constantly looking back on it and trying to make yourself a better driver.”

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO BATTLE WITH REDDICK AND CHRISTOPHER BELL FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR? “That will be cool. We have raced against each other a lot this year and I think we have made each other a lot better. It will be fun to do that and see who comes out on top I guess.”

IS THERE A CHANCE YOU WILL DRIVE ANY XFINITY RACES NEXT YEAR? “I don’t know at this time. We will see.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “That wasn’t the plan so far. I really didn’t know so we are kind of just focused on the championship for the most part. That is pretty much it.”

DID YOU DREAM OF THIS, MOVING UP TO CUP, OR DID THIS ALL JUST HAPPEN TO YOU? “Honestly, as a kid I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not. I think it is something that is so far away that you don’t really know what is going to happen. You take it one step at a time and it all just worked out.”

WHAT KIND OF CONVERSATION WAS THAT LIKE WHEN TONY STEWART SAT YOU DOWN IN THE OFF-SEASON AND SAID THAT HE NEEDED TO SEE MORE IMPROVEMENT OUT OF YOU? “It is just something that you always put pressure on yourself also. If you aren’t winning races, it isn’t fun when you aren’t running good. You have to make sure you are doing all you can to make yourself better and that is kind of the way I look at it.”

ARE YOU EXCITED OR JUST OVERWHELMED RIGHT NOW WITH THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE THIS RACE AND ALL THIS STUFF GOING ON? “I think I will find out once this race is over. Right now you have the championship going on and it is a lot to think about. We will worry about the rest after.”

GIVEN THIS DEAL HAS COME OUT AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUN AT HOMESTEAD ISN’T OVER, ARE YOU NERVOUS MORE OR LESS ABOUT THIS NOW? “No, you find ways to block it out, honestly. We have been fast here the last two years and I think I have a good idea of what I am looking for when I get in the car. It is a matter of putting it all together and tomorrow putting it all together. You have to do a little bit of everything.”

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