Cole Custer, driver of the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, is being recognized as the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year after being the only member of this year’s rookie class to make the playoffs, set to begin Sunday at Darlington Raceway.
“At the end of the day, I guess we won, but I don’t know,” Custer said. “I’m not the most confident guy out there that’s gonna say I’m better than all those guys. I know that all of us have been pretty competitive this year, and I think we’ve all made big strides. It’s just a matter of we won at Kentucky. I don’t know what to tell you, so we were Rookie-of-the-Year. It’s tough to swallow, I guess, for some people, but it is what it is. I’m gonna be proud of it, and I think our team should be proud of it. I think we’ve shown that we can compete and we can have good finishes, so it’s just a matter of being consistent and putting it all together.”
This year’s Cup Series rookie class also includes Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, John Hunter Nemechek, Brennan Poole and Quin Houff. At the end of the Aug. 29 race at Daytona International Speedway, the 26-race regular-season finale, Custer was 21st in the driver points standings, behind both Bell, and Reddick. But with a win to his credit, Custer made the playoffs, leaving Bell, Reddick and his other fellow-rookies on the outside looking in.
“It’s huge to be able to race against those guys,” Custer said. “Tyler, Christopher, John Hunter, I think we all made huge strides this year, and were all fairly competitive. It was definitely cool to be able to race these guys for the last five to 10 years and to move up to the Cup level together and have that battle still kind of going on was really cool.”
Custer claimed his first-career, and to this point only, Cup Series win at Kentucky Speedway in July. The five bonus, or playoff points, for that win puts him in a tie with Austin Dillon for 10th in the standings after a points reset among the 16 playoff drivers.
Including his win at Kentucky, Custer has two top-fives and six top-10 finishes in the 26 races, so far, this season. With his win, Custer became the first Cup Series rookie to win a race since Chris Buescher in 2016.