California teenager to race NASCAR trucks for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Cole Custer, 16, is the youngest driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's three national series

Cole Custer, a 16-year-old Ladera Ranch, Calif., native who made NASCAR history last year, will drive in 10 NASCAR truck races this season for the team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., the team said Monday.

Custer will race the No. 00 Chevrolet truck for JR Motorsports with primary sponsorship from Haas Automation, the Oxnard-based maker of machine tools led by Gene Haas.

Haas also is a co-owner (with NASCAR champion Tony Stewart) of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team Stewart-Haas Racing, and Custer's father, Joe Custer, is a Stewart-Haas executive.

"I couldn't ask for a better opportunity with a better organization," Cole Custer said of JR Motorsports in a statement. "I'm so excited to get this season started."

Last September, Custer won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, becoming the youngest driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's three national series. The others, for stock cars, are the Cup series and the second-tier Xfinity Series, formerly the Nationwide Series.

JR Motorsports -- whose other owners are Earnhardt's sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and leading NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick -- mainly competes in the Xfinity Series. Last year, the team's Chase Elliott, 19, won the Xfinity championship.

Expanding into the truck series "is a new and exciting venture for us," Earnhardt Miller said in a statement. "Expanding into the truck series on a part-time basis is furthering our growth."

Custer has said he hopes to one day move up to the Xfinity and Cup series, in which drivers must be 18 or older. The truck series also has an 18-year-old minimum age for drivers on tracks longer than 1.25 miles, where speeds are highest.

But the minimum is age 16 for tracks shorter than that, and Custer's 10 races are scheduled at the shorter tracks. Custer turns 17 on Jan. 23.

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