Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Does Cole Custer’s Penalty Fit the Crime?

NASCAR’s biggest controversy in 2022 has just occurred.

If you missed it, Cole Custer and his crew chief Mike Shiplett have been both fined $100,000, docked 50 driver and owner points and Shiplett has been suspended indefinitely.

This is in response to radio communication between Custer and Shiplett during last Sunday’s (Oct. 9) NASCAR Cup Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

The communication between the two indicated they were intentionally slowing down to allow teammate Chase Briscoe, who was on the bubble to advance in the playoffs, to gain extra positions on the track. Briscoe made the next round by a mere two points.

NASCAR gets heavily criticized for its inconsistency, so its response has sparked some debate. Clayton Caldwell and Michael Nebbia debate whether or not NASCAR got the penalty right.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Life Lessons With Brad Keselowski & Kyle Busch

It Should’ve Been Harsher

Cole Custer’s penalty – 50 driver and owner points, $100,000 fine and crew chief suspended indefinitely – that’s a start.

But it doesn’t fit the crime that was committed late in the race Sunday at the Charlotte ROVAL.

What Custer did has clear and distinct parallels to Spingate, the controversy that torpedoed Michael Waltrip Racing at Richmond Raceway in 2013. You have your crew chief giving clear and distinct orders to alter the outcome of the race, to give one of their team’s drivers enough time and opportunity to get by someone they were battling for a spot in the playoffs.

You have a coded message from someone on the team to trigger the controversy and a driver holding up traffic to help out their teammate.

Look, I’m all for helping a teammate however you can, but what MWR did in 2013 with Spingate and what Custer did Sunday at the ROVAL are just the lowest of the low. NASCAR did more with Spingate than they did with Custer. NASCAR fined MWR’s drivers $100,000 each, put the crew chiefs on probation for the balance of the calendar year and docked each team 50 driver and owner points.

This was what brought in the “100% rule,” a rule that was clearly violated Sunday.

See also
NASCAR Mailbox: Should NASCAR Penalize Intentional Contact?

The penalty that would have fit the severity of the crime should’ve been a loss of 100 driver and owner points, $250,000 fine, probation of the car owners for the balance of the calendar year and suspension of the crew chief and spotter indefinitely, along with suspension of the driver for the rest of the season.

Custer’s blatant disregard of the 100% rule was more egregious than Spingate and should have been treated as such.

Spingate set the precedent for NASCAR penalties when it came to race manipulation. That precedent should’ve at least been followed or even exceeded here. The sanctioning body decided instead to lower its precedent. it failed miserably and gave Custer a slap on the wrist.

What sort of example is NASCAR setting by doing this? The fans might not ever know, but I think it’s a bad example going forward. Other drivers and teams will see this and think they can get away with anything and everything. They’ll think they can exploit the 100% rule to every degree possible while NASCAR isn’t watching.

Guess what? NASCAR should be watching even closer now than ever to make sure the 100% rule is followed following the debacle at the ROVAL. Actions like Custer and Spingate must be stopped before they are repeated again. And word to the wise, they will be repeated again. It’s only a matter of time.

The 100% rule instituted after Spingate was put in place to curtail race manipulation to the degree we saw Sunday and it has clearly failed. It’s time to either enforce this rule to the highest degree or lose it, NASCAR. – Michael Nebbia

This One’s Just Right

Cole Custer and Mike Shiplett should be ashamed of themselves, and the penalty fits the crime.

You can’t manipulate the rules and effect the championship outcome. They left NASCAR no choice but to handle this with a heavy hand.

It all goes back to Spingate back in 2013. That’s when Michael Waltrip Racing intentionally manipulated the championship when Clint Bowyer intentionally spun to bring out a caution flag when teammate Martin Truex Jr. was outside the playoffs. The radio communication between Bowyer, his spotter and his crew chief further proved that they were guilty and it was all done to get Truex into the playoffs.

Not only did Michael Waltrip Racing intentionally spin with Bowyer but they also had Brian Vickers, their third car, pit so Truex could gain another spot on the track and earn more points to get him into the playoffs.

In the end, NASCAR investigated and proved that MWR did indeed manipulate the playoffs and the finish of the race and NASCAR acted swiftly, as they should’ve. MWR never recovered and the team eventually shut down in large part due to the ramifications of the controversy.

While that was an example of someone manipulating the championship, the case of Custer and Shiplett wasn’t nearly as egregious as Spingate. I think we’ll all agree with that, and I think the problem a lot of people who think this was too soft of a penalty is that the precedence for a situation like this is Spingate. NASCAR handed out extremely penalties then, each car was penalized a certain amount of points and several team members were suspended and some were suspended indefinitely.

The biggest difference between Spingate and what happened with Custer and Shiplett is that Spingate was an entire organization working to manipulate the race for one driver.

While what Custer and Shiplett may have benefitted and certainly had the intention to benefit his teammate, but there is no clear evidence that Briscoe or anyone else at Stewart-Haas Racing had any ideas of what exactly was going on with the No. 41 team. The evidence only proves that the No. 41 team did something shady and no one else on the team. In this case it wasn’t an entire organization. That’s the biggest difference.

If you are on the other end of it, and you think NASCAR shouldn’t have acted at all and were too harsh, I ask you why?

There is clear evidence that the team and driver manipulated the race, playoffs and championship. They weren’t out there racing for their own good but rather racing to save their teammate’s championship hopes.

This is worse than some inspection violation. This is worse than any lug nut or wheel falling off. This is hurting the integrity of the championship and for any sport that is the worst thing that can happen. Can you imagine if a team in the NFL intentionally threw a game to benefit another team they had a better relationship with?

It’s hard to even fathom that.

NASCAR is unique because all their teams compete on the same playing field weekly even during the playoffs. Comparing it to other sports, it’d be wild to have a game with all teams involved and some have a chance at the championship and other are just playing for pride.

Naturally, it would be hard for the sport to prevent some kind of gamesmanship or shadiness from happening. That’s why strict rules are needed to prevent those kinds of things from happening. Which is another reason why NASCAR acted so harsh.

In the end, NASCAR acted the way it needed to to keep the integrity of the sport and the championship. It shows NASCAR would not play around. It didn’t this time and that’s the right call. – Clayton Caldwell

About the author

Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Caldwell asks “The evidence only proves that the No. 41 team did something shady……. In this case it wasn’t an entire organization………….If you are on the other end of it, and you think NASCAR shouldn’t have acted at all and were too harsh, I ask you why?”

Whether or not the entire SHR organization was directly involved is immaterial. Custer, Shiplett and the 41 team are part of the SHR organization, and their “shady” behavior had a direct impact on the results of the race, the playoffs, and the overall fortunes of SHR. Custer’s actions didn’t just help Briscoe and SHR, or hurt Larson, it may also effect where other drivers finish in the final standings.

Is anyone really naive enough to think that SHR wasn’t involved when you consider who Custer’s father is? For those who who aren’t aware of who Joe Custer is, he’s the president of SHR.

Briscoe and SHR both benefited by Custer’s action, to the detriment of every other team, and NASCAR as a whole. Briscoe has no more right to advance in the playoffs, then Truex did in 2013.

Last edited 1 year ago by gbvette
Jill P

I found it odd the organization didn’t get penalized and stopped at the crew chief. It’s likely someone higher up told Shiplett to do something.

Tom B

Just like Life, the real criminals go unmentioned.

Tom B

Why is Joe Custer’s title at SHR so hush hush. With all these NASCAR talk shows you would think it would of been brought up several times over the years. We do hear about the dogs and cats and monkeys.

Don Smith

Carl D.

There should be clear rules about what you cannot do to help a teammate, and the punishment for breaking those rules should be clear as well. Then the rules should be enforced consistently. That ain’t gonna happen, though.

Bill B

I agree with you but you have to admit, most times each situation isn’t black and white. To me the fact that one turn or caution can be the deciding factor on who has a chance to be champion and who doesn’t, is the real reason this problem exists. Back when it was a season long championship, there were only a couple of drivers still close enough to be champion by the time holding someone up would make a difference (and almost every year a few positions wouldn’t make a difference anyway). The best example was last year’s championship, one pit stop decided who won the championship. That’s so arbitrary that it cheapens the whole championship.

Carl D.


Daniel Peper

What everyone seems to be missing here is the fact that Briscoe was already in the chase without this move. He was tied with Larson and the tie breaker goes to the best finish in the round. That would have been Briscoe. It was announced on the broadcast.

Bill B

Nobody is missing that fact but it doesn’t change what happened. Someone needs to ask Zipadelli, “Why did SHR feel they needed to cheat when they didn’t have to?”.
Or maybe you have a logical answer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill B

I don’t think that matters. If Briscoe hadn’t gained those positions there is no guarantee he wouldn’t have lost any positions and Larsen made it.

Bill B

If Briscoe was already in the chase without the move then someone needs to ask someone at SHR why they still tried to alter the outcome of the race. Seems kind of stupid doesn’t it?

Brad T

What about Chase Elliott at the fall race in Bristol last year? Can we say double standard?


Different situation because Chase was racing to stay on the lead lap. Minor technicality, but if you follow the rule of NASCAR’s law about “all drivers must give 100% to improve their position”, he was doing what was required. Yeah, we all know he most likely would have raced almost anyone else differently in that situation (if he was first car a lap down and not mad at them), but that’s hard to prove.

Plus, he’s NASCAR’s most popular driver AND he drive’s The Almighty Rick Hendrick’s car, so he can do pretty much anything he wants.

Brad T

That last paragraph pretty much sums it up. NASCAR has lost all credibility when it cones to enforcement of the rules. The Hendrick bias is out of hand. The William Byron joke proved that.


It’s not just this kindergarten level race manipulation. Look at all the plate races where even the TV announcers ballyhoo the green flag pits where all the toyotas pit together, or all the chevys or all the fords. If ten or so cars of one manufacturer are the only ones pitting…….that’s collusion! Because obviously there had to be radio chatter to organize it. That is race manipulation! We can all argue that it’s in the middle of the race and not the last laps, but it is still race manipulation! NASCAR does nothing about that.

Chris A

The whole problem here dates back to the 2003 Rockingham race where Matt Kennesth wrapped up the championship with a 4th place finish with 2 races to go I think. He did it with consistency, winning just once but coming up with 11 top fives and 26 top 10s in 35 races. There has manipulation in racing since it began. But there have been nothing but issues since this playoff system. If you go back and look at the older point system, that system would have allowed multiple drivers to win championship. Nothing against JJ, but this playoff system helped him win at least 4 championships. The bigger issue is why the drivers if they see manipulation why don’t they do something about it. Oh right, Nascar got rid of “Boys have at it”.


If I recall correctly, “the chase” helped JJ and hurt Gordon to the point their Championship totals would be almost reversed – Jeff would have 7 and JJ 4 I think. Plus, I believe Carl Edwards would have had one.


banzai bonnie


I recall that spingate was a death penalty for m w r and the favored driver who got in by knocking m w r out was Jeff Gordon-they sat an extra plate at the table for the buddy of several “influencers”.


Byron gets all his points back, significantly altering the playoff standings, with NASCAR’s blessings (can’t make Mr. H mad, nosiree!). Then they stuff Custer for helping a teammate. Did he intentionally wreck anyone like Byron did? No. Did he even wreck anyone at all? No. Did he affect the playoff list at all? No. It is pretty obvious that NASCAR’s prejudice is showing.

Maybe Tony is right.


Yes he affected the playoff list.


NASCAR seems to hate FORD, and especially FORD drivers who speak their mind! This is retribution plain and simple. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! If this was an HMS driver this would not have been an issue.


the rule says to race 100 percent clearly at bristol last year elliott was not doing that and it changed the outcome of the race and nascar did nothing so this whole deal with custer shouldnt even be a issue ……whether elliott was told to do something or not he wasnt racing 100 percent

Share via