Dale Money | November 8th, 2019
Where will Cole Custer be in 2020? It’s a dilemma that is still up in the air as another season inches further and further to a close. There has been a lot of debate on whether he should stay in Xfinity another year, driving the No. 00 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas or the second option. Which would be making the leap to Monster Energy Series full time and taking over the No. 41 ride currently held by one Daniel Suarez.
A new technical alliance between Go Fas Racing and Stewart-Haas led to plenty of speculation, that Custer would be the leading candidate to drive the No. 32 Ford. Those rumors were dismissed, however, as Corey Lajoie expects to be back for next year. That still leaves the #41 seat vacant for next year as of now, with no real definitive answers on which driver will fill the seat next February at Daytona.
Suarez’s future is in itself serious limbo, two of his teammates in Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola signed extensions in early October. A free agent after 2019 this leaves him on an island, with not a real strong idea of what the next move is. As for Custer, he has the hope of a possible window of opportunity, in which to push forward with his budding young career.
Just 21 years of age, from Ladera Ranch California, he has been building up that racing resume through his three years as a blue-chip prospect with Stewart-Haas Racing. Cole’s dad Joe Custer is in fact very high up in the team’s organization, both president at Stewart-Haas, as well as chief executive of the Haas F1 Team.
Having had back to back one-win seasons in 2017 and 2018. The improved quality of overall race performance in his second season was quite evident. Managing to increase his top 5 and top 10 finishes from seven to fourteen, and nineteen to twenty-six respectively. He also went from fifth to second in the season standings coming within just five points of being crowned Xfinity champion. Losing out to Richard Childress driver Tyler Reddick.
Regardless this year has been a huge step forward, so far winning seven races dwarfing his combined win total from the first two years. Those seven wins are second-most in the series behind playoff leader Christopher Bell. Custer is currently second in the points and will look to qualify for the championship four at Homestead this weekend.
The addition of crew chief Mike Shiplett, along with his overall growth in Xfinity certainly contributed greatly to his huge breakout year. I personally feel the time has come to move on with his career, he’s certainly earned the right to be given an opportunity on the big stage. Having raced for three years in Xfinity and improving significantly over that time period, there really isn’t much more he really needs to prove in the Series.
When we look at a 27-year-old driver in Suarez, who I would argue has not cut the mustard when given the chance. After having two average seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, in which he did not qualify for a playoff spot in either one.
And then given a second life with Stewart-Haas in which felt more like a trial period, the expectations of a playoff berth were I’m sure a necessity in order to get brought back for a second season when you consider that all three of his teammates qualified for this year’s Chase.
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