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Report: Cole Custer Expected to Head Back to the Cup Series

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What’s Happening?

On Tuesday, Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal dropped another Silly Season nugget. According to Stern, 2023 Xfinity Series Champion Cole Custer is “Expected” to move back into the Cup Series for the newish Haas Factory Team, whom his father, Joe Custer, will serve as the Team President.

  • After a harrowing stint in the Cup Series for Stewart-Haas Racing, Cole Custer moved back to the Xfinity Series in 2023. In three full-time Cup Series seasons for SHR, he won one race and never finished better than 16th in points. His Xfinity Series move has proved fruitful, as he won the 2023 Series Championship and currently leads the points 17 races into the 2024 season.
  • In June, after SHR shut down, team co-owner Gene Haas announced that he would retain one of the four Cup Series charters and keep the two-car Xfinity program. The team would be rebranded as the Haas Factory Team, with Joe Custer as the team president. Haas also owns a Formula One team named Haas F1 Team.
  • Fans are not surprised at all by this news. Cole Custer was expected to be involved in some capacity, and he’s earned another shot after an Xfinity Series Championship.

Would This Make Sense?

Should it happen, this move would surprise absolutely no one. Custer has family connections within the team, but he has also performed well enough to earn the opportunity. He won an Xfinity Series Championship, and he had a seven-win season in the series in 2019.

However, he has to improve his previous Cup Series performance. He was the lowest-finishing driver in points in all four seasons at SHR. While SHR may not have been at its all-time best, particularly in the final two years, Custer was there, he still underperformed.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to return to the Xfinity Series after a failed stint in the Cup Series, but do they have success if they come back up? After a tough 2020 Cup Series season, John Hunter Nemechek worked his way up through Trucks and Xfinity before joining the Cup Series in 2024. His performance, however, has left a lot to be desired as he sits 27th in points.

However, on the flip side of the coin, some drivers are genuine late bloomers. Joey Logano struggled in his first four Cup Series seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, and he was released by the team in favor of Matt Kenseth in 2013. However, Logano turned around and won two Championships for Team Penske, and he remains one of the top drivers in the series. Could Custer be the next late bloomer while taking a different route?

Regarding how Haas Factory Team will perform, single-car teams tend to struggle in the Cup Series. No single-car team has won a Championship since 1994, when Dale Earnhardt won his seventh Cup Series crown with Richard Childress Racing. In 2024, the only single-car teams are JTG-Daugherty and The Wood Brothers, currently sitting 27th and 34th in owner’s points, respectively.

Simply put, it’s not the same situation as Cole’s original Cup Series opportunity, and it’s hard to say it’s a better one. Expectations are not the same as when Custer first came into Cup, which could help take some pressure off of him, but he won’t be racing for a multi-car juggernaut where he knows he can win races.

What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

The Daily Downforce is Hiring Writers

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