Small Team Owner Birthed Many Of Cup’s Big Stars

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 14 2019
Carl Edwards talks with the man who helped make him a star – Mike Mittler. (RacinToday file photo courtesy of Dan Robinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

After winning Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, Brad Keselowski got audibly and visually emotional. It wasn’t because of his victory or the fact that it was one of those exciting, overtime come out of nowhere jobs.

Touching the nerve for Keselowski was the death the day before of Mike Mittler. Before saying virtually a single word about his third win of 2019, Keselowski announced he was dedicating the result to Mittler.

Out there in television land, a large chunk of viewers must have let out a collective, “Mike who?”

In the Kansas garages and in places were serious Heartland race fans gather to enjoy their sport, no explanation was needed.

Mittler was the owner/crew chief of a NASCAR Truck Series team and he was so much more. He was a talent scout. He had two helping hands. He was a Missouri guy and he was a racing guy.

Keselowski alluded to all those things Saturday night.  “I’ve got to dedicate this win to Mike Mittler.  He helped a lot of guys in their career, and I was one of them, and he passed away yesterday and just such a huge loss for the NASCAR community.  He’s one of those unsung heroes that works in the garage, gave his whole life to this sport, and there’s so many of those guys, so many of those fans, and it just hurts to see those guys go away.”

One of those guys.

MB Racing operates out of small shop in the town of Foristell, Mo. It’s a map-blip town near St. Louis. MB’s Truck team had competed in the series since NASCAR launched it in 1995. It started 301 races.

In terms of wins, poles and top-five finishes, Mittler’s team has been less than remarkable as it never won a race. It’s biggest moment of on-track glory came in 2015 when it won a pole at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway dirt track with Bobby Prince at the wheel.

In terms of contributions to the sport, MB has been very remarkable. Mittler gave rides to a stunning number of young talents. Drivers like Kenny Irwin, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Justin Allgaier, Tony Roper and 2012 Cup champ Keselowski.

Current Stewart-Haas Racing driver Clint Bowyer, who is a native of neighboring Kansas took to Twitter to remember Mittler and explain his place in NASCAR. “If you drove a race car in the Midwest you dreamed of Mike finding you,” Bowyer said.

Mittler enjoyed the respect of many more members of the NASCAR family. People like St. Louis’ Wallace brothers and Kenny Schrader. He supplied parts to Rusty Wallace’s short track operation.

He was recently voted into the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame. He was flush with prided at the honor.

When the trucks hit the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, they will all have one thing in common, a tribute decal to MB Motorsports founder Mike Mittler.

Ten years ago, Edwards said there was no way he would have made it to the Cup Series without Mittler’s help. He told RacinToday.com: “You can look at people’s hands and tell how hard they work,” Edwards said. “Some people have clean hands, some have real dirty hands, and there are some people like Mike who are missing the ends of a couple of fingers. He’s a hard, hard worker.

“He can come in the morning at 8 a.m. and work all day at Mittler Brothers Machine and Tool and make the money he goes and spends from 5 o’clock to midnight working on the race car.

“He can build the engines, set up the trucks, drive the hauler, probably drive the race car too.

“I learned a lot from him about digging deep and not using excuses.”

Mike who? Another “one of those guys” and in spades.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 14 2019
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