A significant milestone is in the making for Mike Shiplett, crew chief for this year’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contender and Rookie-of-the-Year recipient Cole Custer. When the Cup Series competes in this weekend’s Playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Shiplett will call his 150th race in NASCAR’s premier series as a crew chief.
A native from Amherst, Ohio, Shiplett grew up working on street stock cars for local short track racing with his uncle before he raced his prepared street stock across Ohio at age 16, eventually moving up to late model stock cars. He went on to attain a degree in diesel technology at the University of Northwestern Ohio in 1992. Afterwards, he joined Liberty Racing as a mechanic in the American Speed Association in 1995, which made the eventual move to the NASCAR Truck Series.
In 1998, Shiplett moved to North Carolina and worked as a car chief for the No. 75 Butch Mock Motorsports team that competed in the NASCAR Cup Series. Following the 2000 season, Shiplett joined forces with Ultra Motorsports in 2001 and continued to work as a car chief. Two years later, he joined Evernham Motorsports and another four years later, he worked as a crew chief for Evernham’s Xfinity Series program. Working with seven competitors in the 2007 NASCAAR Xfinity season, Shiplett won his first two NASCAR career races as a crew chief with Kasey Kahne.
In 2008, when Evernham Motorsports became Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, Shiplett was named a full-time NASCAR Cup Series crew chief for the No. 10 Dodge team that started the season with Patrick Carpentier, the 1997 CART Rookie of the Year and Champ Car competitor from LaSalle, Quebec, Canada, behind the wheel. The 2008 season marked Shiplett’s first as a Cup crew chief. From 2008 to 2009, Shiplett worked with five different drivers (Patrick Carpentier, Terry Labonte, Mike Wallace, Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger) while remaining with the team that became Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009. In August 2008, Shiplett served as a crew chief for Carpentier for the NASCAR Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he finished 25th. Following the 2009 season, Shiplett called 66 Cup career races.
In 2010, Shiplett worked as a full-time Cup crew chief with Allmendinger and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford team. Together, Allmendinger and Shiplett achieved a pole position at Phoenix Raceway in April, two top-five results and eight top-10 results as Allmendinger concluded the season in 19th place in the final standings. Following the 2010 season, Shiplett reached 100 Cup races as a crew chief.
For the first 19 Cup races of the 2011 season, Shiplett remained as crew chief for Allmendinger and the No. 43 RPM Ford team as Allmendinger earned one top-five result, four top-10 results and was ranked in 16th place in the standings following the recent Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. Afterwards, Shiplett was replaced by Greg Erwin for the remainder of the season and Allmendinger went on to conclude the season in a career-best 15th place in the final standings.
In 2012, Shiplett scaled back to the Xfinity Series and worked at Turner Motorsports. He served as a crew chief for 23 Xfinity races while working with Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet, both of whom split driving roles in the No. 38 Great Clips Chevrolet. He also served as a crew chief for Kahne in the Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway in April, where Kahne went on to win.
From 2013 to 2014, Shiplett rejoined Richard Petty Motorsports and was involved with the team’s research-and-development program. He also served as an Xfinity Series crew chief for Corey LaJoie in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November when LaJoie made his series debut.
In 2015, Shiplett rejoined the Xfinity Series and worked as a crew chief for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi Racing and the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro team driven between Kyle Larson, Justin Marks and Brennan Poole. Shiplett remained with the organization when the No. 42 car returned only under the Chip Ganassi Racing banner in 2016. From 2015 to 2018, Shiplett won a total of 15 Xfinity races between Larson, Marks, Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain and John Hunter Nemechek.
After Chip Ganassi Racing’s Xfinity program shut down due to sponsorship woes, Shiplett joined Stewart-Haas Racing to serve as crew chief for Cole Custer and the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team. Together, Custer and Shiplett had great success all season long as they achieved seven victories, six poles, 17 top-five results, 24 top-10 results and an average result of 9.0. In the end, however, Custer and Shiplett finished in second place in the final standings behind the champions Tyler Reddick and crew chief Randall Burnett of Richard Childress Racing.
Following a successful 2019 Xfinity Series season, Stewart-Haas Racing named Shiplett as a full-time crew chief of the No. 41 Haas Ford Mustang driven by Custer for the 2020 season as Custer entered this season as a Rookie-of-the-Year contender. Through the first 16 Cup races of this season, Custer and Shiplett achieved one top-five result, two top-10 results and were ranked in 25th place in the regular-season standings.
The following race at Kentucky Speedway, however, Custer took advantage on a two-lap shootout and made a bold four-wide pass for the lead on the final lap and against names like Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. to achieve his first Cup career victory in his 20th series start. The win was also Shiplett’s first in the Cup level as the victory guaranteed Custer, Shiplett and the No. 41 team a spot in the 2020 Cup Playoffs. Custer and Shiplett went on to achieve three additional top-10 results throughout the regular-season stretch. By the time the 2020 Cup Playoff field was set following the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway in August, Custer was named the 2020 Cup Rookie of the Year since he was the lone rookie candidate to make the 16-car Playoff field.
Through the first two Cup Playoff races of this season, Custer and Shiplett achieved 12th- and 14th-place results at Darlington Raceway and at Richmond Raceway. Currently, Custer is eight points below the top-12 cutline and is one of four competitor who are on the brink of elimination from title contention entering this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Catch Shiplett’s milestone start at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race on Saturday, September 19. The race will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.