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Custer Heads to Richmond With Momentum


Cole Custer after winning the pole for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas. (Photo: Myk Crawford | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. — Heading into Richmond Raceway, Cole Custer is on a roll.

After two finishes of 13th or worse to open the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Custer found the right gear out west. He qualified on the pole for both races on the West Coast swing — which resulted in a second-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a fifth at Phoenix Raceway. The series had its first off week while Cup went to Bristol Motor Speedway, but Custer returned after the break with another top five at Circuit of the Americas.

During the three-race span, Custer jumped from 11th to third in driver’s points.

“We’ve definitely had a solid streak here,” Custer said during a teleconference this week. “We’ve really been running solid, but I feel like we’ve been maximizing days really good. Our pit crew has been really good. They’ve been on it. Our guys have been really good about adjustments through the race and trying to maximize our day, but we want that little bit more that can lead to winning races. I feel like we’re doing a good job right now, it’s just how we finish the thing off.

“It builds some confidence just because I feel like even on our not best days recently we’ve been able to run top five and have good points and be able to really maximize as good as we could. I feel like when we do have the days that we want and the speed that we want, we’re gonna really be able to make it happen. It’s just trying to get that on a consistent basis.”

Last season, the 26-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, won three races including the finale as he won his first Xfinity Series title. Up until Phoenix, Custer had only won on road courses — Portland International Raceway and the inaugural Chicago Street Course race.

After spending three full seasons in Cup, Custer returned to Xfinity with high expectations. He met the obvious end goal but got off to an underwhelming start, recording just one top 10 while sitting 12th in points.

Custer’s season turned around for the better at Richmond. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished fifth in the 250-lapper, kicking off a stretch of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes to claw back into the title fight.


Cole Custer practices before the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at COTA. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

“From the start of last year, I mean, it’s just such a different ballgame for us from a notebook standpoint,” Custer said. “There were so many things that we were trying to figure out at that point of what to bring to the racetrack from a setup standpoint and I feel like we just really built a great notebook throughout the year and now we’ve been able to really unload exactly where we need to be for the most part and have solid top five cars where we want them.

“I think there’s been a couple of little changes with tires and rule changes with the aero side a little bit in the Xfinity Series from last year, so just trying to adapt to that a little bit, just what we maybe need to do a little bit, but at the end of the day I think we’re right there in the mix and just have to put it all together.”

In eight previous Xfinity starts at the 0.75-mile oval, Custer doesn’t have a finish worse than 15th. He won the spring 2019 race driving the same No. 00 car for Tony Stewart and Gene Haas and backed it up with a third in the summer race. His best Cup finish on the aging River City asphalt came in 2020, when he finished 14th.

“Richmond is probably the most similar to being on ice without ice skates,” Custer explained. “That’s what it feels like after about five laps, so you’re just slipping and sliding around and you have to just manage your tires the most that you can to try and have something at the end of the run because there will be guys that don’t have that long run car and you’ll just eat them up on the long runs, especially with it being a day race for Xfinity.

“It’s all you can to keep the tires on it. I mean, it will kill them after five laps, so you definitely have to have the car balance good to keep the tires on it, but then you have your job as a driver to try and make sure you don’t overslip the tires and kill them.”

Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 is set for 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Chandler Smith is the defending winner.


Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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