A number of NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers started their 2019 racing season early at Daytona International Speedway during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test.
Three drivers that are set for a full Xfinity season made laps in a Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 in preparation for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race on January 25 ahead of the 57th anniversary running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Cole Custer, who finished second in the 2018 Xfinity Series standings, will return to race in the Challenge season-opener after finishing third last season in the No. 15 Ford with teammates Ty Majeski and Scott Maxwell.
“It’s a good thing that Ford lets us do and to hang out with the Ford drivers and get to know them,” Custer said. “It’s a cool deal and I always look forward to coming here. It’s a fun track. I think we are pretty solid so we’ll see what happens when we come back for the race.”
Custer likes the opportunity to race in IMSA because it helps hone his road racing skills. He has four top 10s in five road course starts in the Xfinity Series that includes a seventh-place finish in the first race at the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’re trying to get the basics down for road course racing,” Custer said. “These cars are definitely a lot different but you still get the same characteristics, like braking and doing left and right turns.”
This year, Custer will have Chase Briscoe, who was also at the Roar Before the 24 test, as a teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing. Briscoe, who won his first career Xfinity Series race last year at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, will compete full-time driving No. 98 Ford Mustang for SHR with Fred Biagi.
“It will be big,” Custer said about having Briscoe as a teammate. “He’s definitely a great driver. He has a lot of car control and he’s a great teammate. I think it will help a lot to bounce the notebook setup-wise off each other and also driving-wise having somebody to help you out. Overall, it will be just a great thing.”
Austin Cindric, who will race full time for Team Penske in the Xfinity Series driving the No. 22 Ford, enjoys the Roar Before the 24 test as it brings in high-profile drivers from around the world.
“I’m really excited to do this event three years in a row in various different opportunities,” said Cindric, who tested both the Ford Mustang for the Michelin Pilot Challenge and the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 for the Rolex 24. “Just to say that I’m part of it is pretty cool because you look at some of the people on the entry list, and yeah I’m a NASCAR Driver and there’s something to that, but when you’ve got names like Fernando Alonso and Alex Zanardi – guys that I grew up watching as a race fan. There is no other race in the world that has that kind of outlook.”
For the Michelin Pilot Challenge, Cindric is in the No. 22 for Multimatic with Briscoe and veteran road racer Billy Johnson.
Majeski competed part-time in the Xfinity Series in 2018 but after the news that Roush Fenway Racing will not field a NXS team this year, he is unsure of his plans in NASCAR at this time.
“We are definitely exploring a lot of different options right now,” Majeski said. “There’s a lot of different avenues I could go but we’ll see what happens.”