Cole Custer officially named driver of No. 41 in NASCAR’s Cup series for 2020
What was rumored Thursday became fact on Friday as Stewart-Haas Racing officially named Cole Custer to replace Daniel Suarez in the No. 41 Cup car for 2020. The news comes only a few hours after Suarez confirmed his departure from the team on social media.
“I’m here to confirm the bad news that some of you guys already know and some of you guys are trying to figure out that I won’t be back next year in the 41 car,” Suarez said in the video posted on Twitter. “I am extremely disappointed at the outcome but it’s the way it is sometimes. I’m sure something else will be waiting for me.”
After Suarez revealed the news, SHR issued a statement that read: “Daniel Suarez is the epitome of class. He is a world-class race car driver and an even better person who has represented Stewart-Haas Racing and its partners extremely well. We have much respect and admiration for Daniel, and genuinely wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”
Rumors surfaced during NASCAR’s Championship 4 media day in Miami Beach Thursday that Suarez was out and Custer in the No. 41. Naturally, Custer was asked:
“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on the championship,” Custer said. “I’ve just really tried to stay out of it. I mean, honestly, this is a really big weekend for us to win a championship in the Xfinity Series.”
Suarez is about to complete his first season at SHR in the sport’s top series and is currently 17th in the point standings with four top-5 and 11 top 10 finishes on the season. He came to SHR following a two-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stint at Joe Gibbs Racing from 2017-18. The 27-year-old also won the 2016 Xfinity Series Championship for JGR.
The 21-year-old Custer is from Ladera Ranch, California, and is set to compete for the series title on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as part of the Championship 4 with fellow Xfinity Series drivers Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier.
“I was asked last year about this time what Cole needed to do to earn his place in the NASCAR Cup Series, and I said he needed to win,” said Gene Haas, co-owner of SHR with three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. “Well, Cole has done that – a lot. He showed that he’s ready to compete at the next level and we’re giving him that opportunity.”
Custer finished second in last year’s Xfinity Series championship to Reddick, and 2019 has proven to be a breakout campaign for Custer. He came into the season with two wins – one in 2017 and another in 2018. This year alone, he has claimed seven victories, six poles, 16 top-fives, 23 top-10s and led 907 laps. Custer’s seven wins are the second-most this year, behind only Bell with eight wins. Custer’s six poles ties him with Bell for the most poles this season.
Custer, Bell and Reddick will resume their rivalry in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020, with each earning a promotion from their respective teams to NASCAR’s premier racing series.
“Cole has certainly earned his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020,” Stewart added. “He’s consistently running up front, leading laps and winning races. The level of competition increases dramatically in the NASCAR Cup Series, but it’s where Cole belongs after having proven himself in the Xfinity Series.”
Custer has steadily advanced through NASCAR’s stepping-stone divisions, finding success in the NASCAR K&N Series, followed by the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and the Xfinity Series. Being promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series is a natural evolution of his racing career, especially after such a strong 2019 season.
“This is the moment I’ve worked for ever since I first started racing,” said Custer, who began racing quarter midgets at age five. “I’ve learned a lot in these last three years in the Xfinity Series, and to be able to stay within Stewart-Haas Racing will make a steep learning curve a little less steep. I know the people, the culture and what’s expected of me. I’m ready for this challenge.”