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Stewart Haas Racing names Mike Shiplett as Cole Custer’s crew chief

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Stewart Haas Racing on Friday announced that NASCAR veteran Mike Shiplett has been named crew chief for the No. 00 Xfinity Series Ford and driver Cole Custer.

I’m very excited to start here over at Stewart Haas Racing,” Shiplett said on the first-ever SHR Podcast. “There’s a lot of technology. I’ve been here a little over two weeks and I’m learning a lot of stuff.”

Shiplett became available when Chip Ganassi Racing shut down its 2019 Xfinity Series racing operation on Jan. 4.

Yes, doors close, but fortunately opened up pretty quick thanks to (SHR president) Joe Custer,” Shiplett said. “Just putting our best foot forward and getting ready for the 2019 race season.

“The goal every week is to go and win races. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a lot of young drivers and get them their first wins. I’m very proud of that.”

Shiplett takes over for Jeff Meendering, who was the 21-year-old Custer’s crew chief last season. Meendering has moved on to Joe Gibbs Racing for the upcoming Xfinity Series as crew chief for Brandon Jones.

“I’m looking forward to working with Cole and refining his talents, see where he needs help and just helping him in those areas so he can win multiple races each year,” Shiplett said.

Shiplett has served as a crew chief for 191 Xfinity Series races dating back to 2007, with 17 wins, 49 top-five and 83 top-10 finishes. Drivers he’s worked with include Kasey Kane, Elliott Sadler, Patrick Carpentier, Kyle Larson, Justin Marks, Brennan Poole, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Jamie McMurray and John Hunter Nemechek.

Shiplett also has 121 starts as a NASCAR Cup crew chief, with zero wins, three top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Drivers he worked with include Terry Labonte, Mike Wallace, Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger.

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Brandon Jones back with Joe Gibbs Racing for second Xfinity season

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Brandon Jones will return for a second season with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the team announced Friday.

Jones will pilot the No. 19 JGR Toyota Supra. After a run with Richard Childress Racing in 2016 and 2017, Jones spent the 2018 campaign with JGR, qualified for the playoffs and finished a career-best ninth in the Xfinity standings.

In 33 starts, he had two top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, led 173 laps and scored one pole. His best showing was runner-up in the spring Xfinity race at Talladega.

Jones will be paired this season with a new crew chief, Jeff Meendering.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our 19 team and the huge strides and experience we gained last year,” Jones said in a JGR media release. “There is no doubt it was a big team effort and I am very excited about being back at Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

“With the addition of our new crew chief Jeff Meendering and his leadership, we should be in the mix every weekend competing for a championship.”

Sponsorship will be announced at a later date, the team said.

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2018 Xfinity Season in Review: Cole Custer

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Cole Custer

CREW CHIEF: Jeff Meendering

TEAM: Stewart-Haas Racing

POINTS: Second

WINS: One (Texas II)

LAPS LED:  389 (Best through two seasons)

TOP 5s: 14 (Double amount from 2017)

TOP 10s: 26 (Up from 19 in 2017)

POLES: Six (Series-best)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Twenty top 10s in first 25 races of season … Five consecutive top fives from Charlotte I to Chicagoland) … Was only Ford driver in the Championship 4 … Made his first three Cup Series starts.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Didn’t win until race 31 of season. Previous win was 2017 season finale … Three DNFs for wrecks (Atlanta, Daytona II and Indianapolis) … Led race-high 95 laps in season finale at Miami, but finished second after he lost the lead following a longer green-flag run than the rest of the leaders in the final stage.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2019: Will compete in a rare third full-time season in Xfinity with a new crew chief after Jeff Meendering joined Joe Gibbs Racing … Custer will have a full-time teammate in Chase Briscoe, who will drive the No. 98 Ford.

Joe Gibbs Racing announces 2019 crew chief realignment

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On Thursday, Joe Gibbs Racing announced a crew chief realignment for the 2019 season for four of its teams.

Chris Gabehart will take over for Mike Wheeler as Denny Hamlin‘s crew chief in the Cup Series. Wheeler and Hamlin parted ways following the season finale at Homestead. Gabehart spent the last three seasons as an Xfinity crew chief for JGR earning a total of nine wins during that time. Last year, he was the crew chief for the Xfinity No. 19 team of Brandon Jones.

Eric Phillips will also move from the Xfinity series to Cup as the car chief for Hamlin. He earned eight wins during three seasons as an Xfinity crew chief on the No. 18.

Jeff Meendering will fill the crew chief spot on the Xfinity No. 19 vacated by Gabehart and will be paired with Jones.

Meendering returns to JGR after two years with Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 00 car.

Ben Beshore moves from his current role as engineer on Kyle Busch‘s car to fill the role of crew chief on the Xfinity No. 18. This team typically fields multiple drivers during the season.

“With such a short offseason it’s important to start work toward the 2019 season immediately and we are proud with the teams we have assembled now, both in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and in the Xfinity Series,” said owner Joe Gibbs in a press release. “With Chris Gabehart joining Adam Stevens, Chris Gayle, and Cole Pearn on the Cup side we believe we have the right leaders in place to benefit our entire organization.”

Former driver Mark McFarland will become team manager and crew chief for JGR’s K&N Pro series and ARCA car. In 31 starts in the Xfinity series, McFarland scored one top 10 at Talladega in 2006 while driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“In addition, we take a tremendous amount of pride in our accomplishments in the Xfinity Series and are excited to have Jeff Meendering and Ben Beshore join Jason Ratcliff to lead our efforts there, as well as bolster our developmental program in ARCA with the addition of Mark McFarland,” Gibbs said.

NASCAR fines Xfinity crew chief

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NASCAR announced Tuesday that it fined crew chief Jeff Meendering $5,000 after officials found one lug nut not secure on Cole Custer‘s car after last weekend’s Xfinity race at Road America.

That was the only penalty from the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series this past weekend.