When the NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, Cole Custer will be without his crew chief Mike Shiplett. On Tuesday, NASCAR released its weekly post-race penalty sheet after the latest race weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which confirmed Shiplett has been fined $20,000 and suspended for Phoenix for loose lug nuts.
After Custer finished last Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 in twenty-fifth, his #41 was found to have two lug nuts not properly installed in post-race inspection. Per NASCAR’s rules, one lug nut would have simply resulted in a $10,000 fine, while two meant a $20,000 fine and one-race suspension for the crew chief. Additional loose nuts would result in disqualification.
In Shiplett’s place will be Custer’s lead race engineer Davin Restivo in his début as a Cup crew chief. Restivo and Shiplett were on SHR’s Xfinity Series team with Custer before following him to the #41 in 2020. Before joining SHR in 2019, Shiplett worked as the crew chief for Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Xfinity team, while his first Cup experience in the role came with Richard Petty Motorsports (and predecessor Evernham Motorsports) from 2008 to 2011.
Shiplett is the first premier series crew chief to receive a suspension for lug nut violations in 2021, while Restivo is the series’ second interim crew chief. The first instance of the latter came at Homestead two weeks prior when Steve Letarte took over for Ryan Sparks as Corey LaJoie‘s crew chief while Sparks was in COVID-19 protocol.
Custer, now in his second full-time Cup season, sits nineteenth in points after four races with a best finish of eleventh in the opener at Daytona. The Vegas race was an unusually poor day for Custer and his SHR team-mates, with Kevin Harvick finishing the best of the four in twentieth and a lap down despite starting on the pole. Despite the struggles, SHR fabricator Brian Murphy assured that the team is not concerned with the early results as they “had some great speed the first three races that was hindered by bad luck. There’s plenty of time, especially with the current points format.”
Five other Cup crew chiefs were fined $10,000, also for lug nut infractions: Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers, Luke Lambert (#17 of Chris Buescher), Ben Beshore (#18, Kyle Busch), James Small (#19, Martin Truex Jr.), and Greg Erwin (#21, Matt DiBenedetto). At the lower series, Xfinity’s Jason Trinchere (#16, A.J. Allmendinger) and Camping World Truck Series‘ Trip Bruce (#52, Stewart Friesen) were respectively fined $5,000 and $2,500 for having single loose lugs. Allmendinger, who won his series’ race with Trinchere, incidentally had Shiplett as his Cup crew chief at RPM.