Ryan Preece has replaced Cole Custer in the No. 41 Ford Mustang for the 2023 season. Custer lost his NASCAR Cup Series ride, but he will stick with Stewart-Haas Racing while taking on a new role as a mentor.
As part of the announcement about Preece running full-time, SHR also confirmed that Custer will remain a part of the organization. He will simply return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and become a teammate of Riley Herbst, who signed a new deal on November 15.
Custer will pursue wins and a spot in the playoffs, but he will also work alongside Herbst to help the driver of the No. 98 make improvements throughout the 2023 season.
“Cole Custer has been a part of SHR since 2017 and we’re glad to have him stay with us,” team co-owner Tony Stewart said in a press release. “Cole’s experience will be invaluable to Riley Herbst as he continues his development in the Xfinity Series.”
2022 was Herbst’s best in the Xfinity Series. He set new career highs in top-10 finishes (20) and top-fives (eight). He also ended the season 10th in the championship standings. He remains winless in the series, but he will now work with a fellow SHR driver, one that has achieved success in NASCAR.
The 2022 season will mark a significant change for SHR. Since entering the Xfinity Series in 2017, the team has only featured one full-time driver. Though Kevin Harvick made six starts alongside Custer during that inaugural season.
Custer Has Numerous Wins in the Xfinity Series
The California native will make his return to the Xfinity Series, and he will compete full-time for the first time since the 2019 season. He will set out to pursue more wins after achieving success and fighting for the championship.
Custer competed full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He reached the playoffs each season, and he won a combined nine races. This includes a career-high of seven in 2019.
Custer did not win the championship in any of his full-time seasons, but he came close. He finished fifth in the standings in 2017, second behind Tyler Reddick in 2018, and second behind Reddick once again in 2019.
Custer Has Made Some Starts in Xfinity Since Moving to Cup
While Custer has focused on the Cup Series since the year 2020, he has made some limited starts in the Xfinity Series. He joined Rick Ware Racing for one event in 2021 and SS Green Light Racing for five in 2022.
The first of these starts was the biggest for Custer and SS Green Light Racing. He took over the No. 08 Ford Mustang for the trip to Auto Club Speedway and secured a spot on the front row in qualifying. Custer then went on to lead 80 of the 165 laps before capturing the organization’s first win.
Custer’s 2022 schedule included races at Circuit of the Americas, Road America, Pocono Raceway, and Watkins Glen International. He finished third at COTA and 10th at Pocono. Custer also put himself in contention early at Road America, but a crash at the road course due to a major brake failure ended his day early.
Custer’s full-time schedule in the Xfinity Series will include an opportunity to defend his win at Auto Club Speedway. He will also take on a new challenge in the Chicago street race. Custer has won on short tracks and intermediates, but he has yet to capture a road course or a street course. He will have this chance during his return to full-time racing.