By David Morgan, Associate Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The tagline of the NASCAR Xfinity Series is ‘Names are Made Here,’ but given the recent advancements of some of the series’ biggest stars, it should be ‘Moving on Up.’
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer is the latest to make the move to the Cup Series in 2020, joining fellow championship contenders Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell in NASCAR’s top division next year.
Reports of Custer’s move broke out on Thursday, but the driver of the No. 00 Ford shrugged off the news, electing instead to focus on the championship battle unfolding this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on the championship,” Custer said Thursday. “I’ve really tried to kind of stay out of it, I mean, honestly, this is a really big weekend for us, I mean to win a championship in the Xfinity Series, so if we can do that that’s probably my focus this next week.
The team made the news official on Friday morning, solidifying their four-car lineup for next season.
“This is the moment I’ve worked for ever since I first started racing,” Custer added about his move, when it became official. “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.”
The 21-year old Ladera Ranch, Calif. native first entered the Xfinity Series full-time in 2017, winning nine races along the way, seven of which have come this season. Custer has finished in the top-five in points each season, with a runner-up finish in the championship last year.
“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, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner. “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.”
“Cole has certainly earned his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020,” Tony 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 will take over for Daniel Suarez in the No. 41 Ford, who took to social media on Thursday night to give a message to his fans about his tenure with SHR coming to an end on Sunday.
A message for my fans 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/GrnRGAmpFa
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) November 14, 2019