Cole Custer is emblematic of Ford’s driver development program

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 13: Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 13, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Cole Custer’s performance on the race track—specifically, seven victories this year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series—helped earn the 21-year-old from Ladera Ranch, Calif., a full-time ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

But Custer also has been learning a great deal in an environment fans can’t see, as part of the driver development program conducted by Ford Performance.

“We have started putting a lot of focus on our driver development over the last several years,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford performance Motorsports. “A lot of the things that we can bring to the party is simulator time, which gives them extra time not just to practice driving the car and getting familiar with different tracks but to also practice and be more effective at their communication or evaluation skills, what do they feel in the car, how do they communicate that back to the crew chief and then make changes.

“So you can go through all of that in the simulator to try to advance and prepare them.”

That sort of training already has added to Custer’s body of knowledge.

“Some of the other things that we’re doing over the last two years have been using our IMSA program with the Mustang GT4 cars to put our truck drivers and our Xfinity drivers into getting them more seat time, first of all, getting them more road course time and more data analysis, again, more feedback, more training, more communication, and specifically for Cole Custer, he’s been doing that for the last two years, as well. So that helps develop him as an individual.

“We’ve seen Cole… for a lot of reasons beyond those, Cole has matured and grown a lot over these last two years, and we’re excited to see him taking that step up to Cup next year.”