Ford Performance NASCAR: Custer Wins First Cup Race; Mustang’s 10th Win of 2020

NASCAR CUP SERIES
SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2020
QUAKER STATE 400 – KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY
FORD PERFORMANCE DRIVER – POST RACE QUOTES

Ford Finishing Results:
1st — Cole Custer
3rd — Matt DiBenedetto
4th — Kevin Harvick
6th — Ryan Blaney
8th — Aric Almirola
9th — Brad Keselowski
14th — Clint Bowyer
15th — Joey Logano
17th — Ryan Newman
20th — Chris Buescher
24th — Michael McDowell
28th — Corey LaJoie
30th — JJ Yeley
34th — Joey Gase
36th — John Hunter Nemechek

COLE CUSTER WINS FIRST CUP RACE; MUSTANG RECORDS 10TH WIN OF 2020


CarParts.com
American Muscle

Cole Custer registered the first win of his NASCAR Cup Series career with today’s victory.

Ford has now won 4 of the last 5 Cup races.

Ford’s hot streak has now seen it win 8 of the last 9 NCS and NXS races combined.

This marks the 24th win for Stewart-Haas Racing since joining Ford.

The win is Mustang’s 10th of the season, matching its win total from last season.

Today’s win is Ford’s 696th all-time in NASCAR Cup Series competition.

Custer is the 84th different driver to win a Cup race with Ford, and the first new winner since Clint Bowyer won at Martinsville (2018).

COLE CUSTER, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang — VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW — “We were so good all day. Our car was so good. I mean, obviously, it wasn’t the easiest track to pass on, so we were kind of stuck back there, but that was the best car I’ve ever driven in my life. Everybody at SHR brought an unbelievable car. Mike and Davin on the box, that was unbelievable. Gene, I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for him taking a shot on me. It definitely was not the start to the year that we wanted. We were definitely way off at some places, but this was by far an unbeilevable car. We put it all together and I just can’t thank everybody enough.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE AS A ROOKIE WITH NO PRACTICE? “It’s not easy. You’ve got to kind of adapt as much as you can. I think we’ve gotten better and better at that. It’s just unbelievable. I didn’t think we were coming here and win. Now we’re gonna be in the All-Star Race. I don’t even have to run the Open. Hopefully, I make it to Bristol.”

HOW DOES IT FEEL? “It’s unbelievable. We had a great car all day, one of the best cars I’ve ever driven in my life. It was really hard to pass. It was hard to get to the front. Once we got there we took advantage of it and I just can’t thank everybody at the shop. That’s probably the best car I’ve ever driven in my life — no lie or anything. I can’t thank Gene Haas enough and everybody at HaasTooling.com for taking a chance on me. I think the start of the year was not what we wanted, we were definitely far off at some places, but I think we’re starting to put it all together and I’m looking forward to it.”

WHAT WAS THE FINAL RESTART LIKE FOR YOU? “I knew I just had to get to the top. The top rolled pretty good and once I got past and I was like in third I was like, ‘I’ve just got to take a shot and do whatever I can here.’ And it ended up the 4 and the 19 got together a little bit and I was able to take advantage of it. It was just an unbelievable car and I was able to take advantage of it. I just can’t thank all my guys and everybody at SHR enough, and everybody at Roush Yates Engines — just an absolutely amazing car.”

YOU ONLY HAVE ONE RACE ON WEDNESDAY NOW. “Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I get the neon lights under the car now and everything. Hopefully, I even make it to Bristol because I’m gonna party pretty good. This is unbelievable — first win. I didn’t think we were gonna come here and win. I was looking for a solid run — pretty unbelievable.”

MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 21 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang — HOW WILD WAS IT AT THE FINISH? “Man, it was crazy. We had a really good car. I mean, we could have contended for the win. It was really fast, but lost track position when things shuffled around and we had to do the wave around. Me and my spotter, I’ve got to give him a lot of credit, Doug Campbell, I told him we should win some sort of restart award. We were 18th because of track position how it cycled out with like seven to go. We had two monstrous restarts and then pushed Cole to the win there, which kind of felt cool. Good for him. Congrats, but this is a big race for us having the Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang in the Quaker State 400, so I wish we could have won it, but circumstances didn’t work out. We’ll take a strong finish and a really fast car.”

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang — A CRAZY RESTART. TAKE US THROUGH IT. “I just want to thank everybody from Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody from Hunt Brothers Racing. Our Ford Mustang was not very good today, but we got a good break with the caution. I had a couple good restarts there and got the car better, but still just not where we needed to be — but the restarts worked out in our favor and we were able to get the lead and Martin just misjudged there on the backstretch and got me sideways. I got out of the gas and that just brought everybody into the picture and then we were four-wide on the front straightaway here and the 12 hit the drain and came up and hit the side of the car and then i couldn’t see, so, yeah, it got wild and that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m just really happy for Cole Custer and everybody on the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang. That’s pretty cool to get your first win. As much as I would have loved to win, I’m glad that we kept it in the company.”

YOU WEREN’T UP FRONT ALL DAY, BUT AT THE END YOU HAD A CHANCE. “We got lucky with that caution and got track position. We had a couple good restarts there and then we were in a position to win. We made it through turns one and two and then Martin (Truex) kind of misjudged on the backstretch and kind of got into us. I had to check up. Next thing I knew I was four-wide on the front straightaway and the 12 (Blaney) hit the drain and went back up the racetrack. I just have to thank everyone from Hunt Brothers Pizza, Busch Light, Jimmy John’s, Mobil 1 and Haas Automation. Everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for continuing to bring great cars. And congratulations to Cole Custer. Obviously, last week he was a big part of our win and to get to victory lane in your rookie year is a big deal. Really happy for Gene (Haas) and everyone at Haas Automation and especially for Cole, he works really hard.”

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang — YOU HAD TO HOLD THE CAR IN GEAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT AND THE FINAL FEW RESTARTS? “I thought we had a good car all day. We drove up through there a lot. From the get-go it was hard to pass, but I thought it was better than the XFINITY or Truck races as far as the passing goes. We might have wore out that stuff a little bit more than them and the bottom seemed to come in a little bit more, especially through one and two, so that was at least better than what it’s been the last couple nights of racing. I finally got the lead from the 10 and I look at the point where we lost control of the race and it was when that caution came out close to the end of stage two and it gave the 2 the lead when they stayed out late and they just crossed the start-finish line on pit road and cycled into the lead. That lost us control of the race, I thought. We couldn’t choose where to restart and it was so hard to get the lead on the bottom, so we were just fighting to try to get back to the lead. I thought we were close to the 19. It was just kind of, I think, between he and I it was just who was in front of who as far as who was gonna have a good shot to win the race. We got a break there on that one restart, where we got a quick caution and we were a nose ahead of him and I was like, ‘Okay, we’re finally back in control of this race,’ and then he got put three-wide in the top of three and couldn’t maintain the lead. And then I hit a damn X Games bump, jump on the frontstretch there and bounced me into Harvick, so that sucked, but, overall, I was happy with our speed, just didn’t quite catch the breaks we needed to try to win the race.”

WAS IT PAINFUL TO HOLD ONTO THE SHIFTER? “It wasn’t painful, it was just that my hand was going numb. It was just vibrating so much that your hand would just go numb after a little bit, so you’d just shake it out and stretch it out. It wasn’t painful, but it stayed pretty rough the whole race through one and two. We had a big load, fast car, so I just didn’t want it to jump out of gear again, and I couldn’t get that bungie cord to work. I didn’t have it hooked to put it anywhere, so my hand was just going numb.”

WHEN YOU HIT THAT JUMP. WAS IT A DRAIN? IS IT ON THE APRON FOR WATER OR JUST A BUMP IN THE TRACK? “I’m not honestly sure if there’s an actual drain there or not. I don’t think there is. If there is a drain right there, it’s really dumb to put a drain right there because it’s just on the apron. I think it’s just a big bump. I don’t understand how you can repave a place a handful of years ago and there’s a jump bigger than any track we go to, but, yeah, I didn’t even know it was there. We don’t run on it. You never run down there, and I didn’t really know it was gonna be that bad. I was lucky it didn’t wipe out all of us. I hate it. I went into Kevin real hard, but I just didn’t know it was gonna be that bad.”

WAS THAT A SPOT IN THE RACE WHERE YOU HAD TO TRY TO GO DOWN THERE? YOU HAD NO CHOICE? “I mean, we were battling for the lead coming to the white. I was just trying to get way from those three guys. I was just trying to get some room between us and not get side drafted or slowed down. I couldn’t necessarily see them, but I was told I was bottom four and that was for the lead, so obviously I’m just gonna get away from him as much as possible because I felt like they were all gonna slow each other down and maybe I’d have an edge into one. People do that all the time, cut to the apron on every type of racetrack that’s available, just none of the other ones have ramps on them.”

YOU HAD NO IDEA IT WAS THERE. “No clue. You see a little bit. I had a small idea it was there, I didn’t know it was gonna be that big. I thought it was just a little rough spot, you know you see it kind of marked up a little bit, but I didn’t realize — it had all four wheels off the ground. I hit the chip. It bounced the rear wheels off the ground. I didn’t realize it was gonna be that big. I thought a little something was gonna be there, I just didn’t realize it was gonna be that big.”

SO IT WAS LIKE THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, JUST HANGING ON? “Yeah, someone rang the horn when I was mid jump and I was just hanging on. I kicked right and I thought I was gonna go right in front of the field, but, luckily, we were able to halfway straighten it out.”

WHAT IS COLE CUSTER GOING TO BE EXPERIENCING NOW AFTER HIS FIRST WIN AT THIS LEVEL? “It’s great. I remember my first win at Pocono in ‘17. We did it in exciting fashion and he definitely did it in exciting fashion today. I know that they’ve been struggling a little bit this year, that 41 group, and it was cool to see him get a win. I know some guys on that team and they’re really good people, and Cole is a great race car driver. He’s obviously showed it in Trucks and XFINITY, and someone like that you’re just waiting for them to break through and get their first one, and it’s cool that he got it so soon in his Cup career. That’s really cool. He did a great job. I’m not really sure how he got to where he did. I don’t know where he lined up on the last restart, but he must have done something great. It’s great. It’s just a weight off your shoulders, especially when you’ve been struggling a little bit and then to just break through it’s definitely a great feeling, so I’m happy for him. It’s cool to see a rookie like that, someone I’ve raced with for a while, get their first Cup win.”

ON THE RESTART OFF TWO IT LOOKED LIKE YOU COULD HAVE MOVED UP IN FRONT OF HARVICK, BUT THEN COLE GOT THE PUSH FROM THE 21. WERE YOU CLOSE TO COMING UP AND TAKING THAT SPOT? “Yeah, I have to go back and look at it. Those decisions, you have to make them really quick and it’s really hard to just hook a right right in the middle of the corner and try to get up there and things like that. So, yeah, I look back on that and will probably be kicking myself probably a little bit on that if there was time to get up. I probably wasn’t really aggressive enough on that, but I have to look. But it is really hard. Sometimes your spotter will say, ‘clear,’ but it’s really hard to just let go of the wheel and just turn right because you’re gonna lose speed going up the hill and if you’re six inches clear, you might close up quick, so it’s easy to look back on and I’ll probably be kicking myself on it, but you learn from things like that and see what you do for next time.”

WHEN YOU WENT INTO TURN THREE IT LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE FORCED DOWN LOW UNDER THE PJ1. DID THAT IMPACT YOU AT THAT POINT? “That deal we were on the bottom and I guess the 4 and the 19, I guess the 4 kind of got hooked by the 19, so he was on the bottom into three. I figured the 4 was gonna send it off into three pretty deep and try to clear himself from the 19, so I was like, ‘Those guys might slide up,’ so I kind of backed off early into three, knowing there was still someone on my outside. It’s not like I could slide up in there, and I kind of slid getting in there. It’s just slick on the bottom out of the PJ1 and definitely slowed up more than I wanted to just trying to make sure that you’re just creeping through in that bottom lane, but they slid up and I didn’t have great momentum, but they just had worse momentum because they were all into each other and, like I say, just down the front you’re just trying to get away from those guys because you’re on the very bottom. So, that’s just part of it. It was a wild last lap, a wild last couple of laps to be honest with you.”

THE ALL-STAR RACE IS WEDNESDAY AT BRISTOL. HAVE YOU THOUGHT HOW WILD THAT MIGHT BE? “I think it’s great. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s cool they moved it. Bristol is obviously, there or Martinsville is a great place to hold an All-Star Race for a million bucks. There’s gonna be more crazy than today. You’re gonna have people really pissed off at each other after that one and you’ll have one guy that’s happy, and that’s usually how all races go, but there’s gonna be a lot more of that, I feel like, on Wednesday. I think it’s great and then having a lot of fans there. I think like 30,000 fans are gonna be able to come to that race, so that’s really good. I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a good short track race, really short and not a lot of laps. There’s gonna be beating and banging for sure, so you better be ready to be the bully, I’m gonna be honest with you, because everybody is gonna be that way.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Snap-On Ford Mustang — YOU WON A STAGE AND THEN HAD TO DEAL WITH THOSE WILD RESTARTS? “Yeah, an interesting race with the PJ1 being what it is, trying to manage that. We started off not to my liking. We worked on it and go the car really good in the middle of the race, and that allowed us — the fact that we were so fast allowed us to run really fast while everybody was pitting, so we stayed out and as soon as we pitted the yellow came out, which cycled us to the lead, which was great, and then we just kind of fell off again. That was kind of a bummer and we were about a fourth or fifth-place car there towards the end and on that restart it’s just mayhem. The cars have so little horsepower that you just have to push and take and take and take. Each restart was a takefest, which is part of the deal. I got used up on one or two of them probably, and had one where I got into Jimmie and probably took more than — took like the other guys had on me the others — but it’s just part of the chaos and it’s interesting because the restarts were the great passing opportunities, but they mix up the races so much that the finish is nowhere near indicative of who ran where, but that’s part of the deal.”

WHAT DID YOU SEE WITH THE JIMMIE INCIDENT? “All race long, not just that restart, the third and fourth-place guys while they’re pushing if you don’t push, your lane doesn’t go, but then the car behind you gets a huge run on you, and that makes it tough. That’s what happened to me on the last restart. I was fourth and I was pushing Kevin and Cole used his run to get to the outside and ultimately win the race. I didn’t block it because it was just too much of a run, pretty similar to what happened with Jimmie is I had a huge from fifth. They took off. They launched together, the inside lane Blaney and Jimmie, and they stretched and then they started to slow down and as they slowed down I just had a huge run and I made a move to the inside. I was turning down towards the grass. I might have had a foot or two, but I couldn’t go much lower, and I don’t know if he was trying to turn down to block me or if he was trying to turn down to get underneath Blaney, but he turned down and I was too far forward. There was kind of unavoidable contact at that time. I don’t know. I hate that it ruined his day. I don’t really necessarily know what to do different. If I stayed in line and just pushed him, I was gonna get gobbled like I did on the last restart, so just part of the mayhem with these restarts. I hate that we had control of the race and just didn’t have enough speed to keep it because I feel like we could have brought this race home. We had a really good car on restarts, but we just didn’t have the speed to keep the lead and fell back to third there and got ate up on the restart. That part is kind of a bummer, but it was just restart mayhem. Double-file restarts. Everybody knows that the only real chance you have to pass is on a restart and it’s a give-and-take fest.”

ARE THE RESTARTS RAMPED UP EVEN MORE THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR? IS IT JUST PURE TAKE MODE? “I don’t know if I would go as far as saying that they’re worse than they were last year. I think certain situations come up from time to time that can make them worse. This track with the way the PJ1 is applied probably amplified it a little bit because you get more desperate to make something happen on the restart. But, other than that, I think each weekend is kind of its own story.”

DID YOU FEEL THE RACE WAS YOUR ON THE FINAL RESTART BY BEING FOURTH ON THE OUTSIDE LANE? HOW GOOD DID YOU FEEL AT THAT POINT? “I felt pretty good about it, but the restarts are such a dance and you have to have a good partner when you’re dancing — maybe not a good partner, but a partner that you’re in sync with would probably be a better term. I was just out of sync with Kevin on the final restart. I probably should have communicated a little better with him and that’s my fault, and that put us in a spot vulnerable to the lane behind us and they ultimately won the race accordingly.”

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT OUT OF SYNC CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT MEANS? “I just didn’t get the push right. I got a good push to start with and then I couldn’t stay on him, so it’s just part of the deal.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ALL-STAR RACE AT BRISTOL ON WEDNESDAY? “I don’t think it’ll look much different than the spring race did and that was pretty exciting. There’s so many variables to that as well. They put that stuff down. I have no idea how that stuff is gonna work, if it’s gonna be burnished in or not, maybe it’ll be over-burnished, just so many variables with all this stuff that keeps getting put on the racetrack that I don’t think any of the drivers can really tell you what to expect with 100 percent certainty.”

IF SOMEONE DOES YOU WRONG IN AN ALL-STAR RACE, DOES THAT CARRY OVER TO A POINTS RACE? “I think every scenario is different. I hate saying anything is law, but certainly you can get frustrated with All-Star Race finishes just like any other finish. A race is a race, but I think you have to have a little sense about the scenarios, too.”

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Vote for Bacon Ford Mustang — “It’s hard to be mad about another top-10, but we had such a great car and led the most laps. We had a really, really fast car and got caught with a caution that came out right in the middle of a green flag pit stop sequence, so we lost a lot of track position because of that. We had to battle our way back most of the day. I;m proud of all the guys on our team. We’re bringing incredible race cars. Congrats to Cole getting his first win and congrats to everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing. You guys are doing an amazing job bringing some really fast Ford Mustangs to the racetrack right now. Thanks to Smithfield, Ford, Go Bowling, Mobil 1, Shady Rays, everybody that continues to support this deal. That’s six top-10s in a row. I wish it was another top five. I wish it was a win, but it wasn’t. We scored a lot of points and led a lot of laps and they certainly knew we were here today. We’ll go on to Bristol and try to race our way in and go win a million bucks on Wednesday night.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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