Mike Mittler, a longtime team owner in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, has died. He was 67.
Mittler’s passing was confirmed by multiple sources. His team indicated last fall that Mittler had been fighting cancer.
Very sad news tonight with the passing of Mike Mittler. Thinking about his family, @MBMotorsports and the #63 tonight. Mike was a special guy who was beloved in the racing community and a true representative of what @NASCAR is all about. 🙏
— Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) May 11, 2019
Mittler’s MB Motorsports team was heralded as a launching pad for many aspiring drivers, some of whom reached the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray and Regan Smith were among the 49 drivers on MB Motorsports’ all-time roster under Mittler’s watch. Many paid tribute to their former team owner Friday evening as the news spread of his passing.
Mittler is credited with 301 career starts as a team owner in the Gander Trucks circuit, dating back to the inaugural season in 1995. His closest brush with victory came with dirt-track ace Bobby Pierce, who won two straight pole positions at Eldora Speedway and finished second driving Mittler’s No. 63 in the midsummer event on dirt in 2015.
That 2015 race at Eldora was Pierce’s first career Gander Trucks start. He chased dirt ace Christopher Bell — then a prospect, now a burgeoning superstar — all over Eldora’s half-mile dirt oval before bringing his battered truck across the line second.
“I thought if it stayed green, we’d have every opportunity to work (Bell) and get by him, but it just didn’t go that way, “Mittler told NASCAR.com after that race. “I just thought, ‘Wow, what a phenomenal opportunity after 20 years, to be in position to finally have an opportunity to win a race.’
“That’s why you’re in this sport, to be in contention to win. It wasn’t a fluke. We were there all day. It was no fluke at all. The kid’s the real deal. He said this is a dream come true for him, and it is for me, too.”
In addition to his career as a team owner, Mittler was a prominent supplier of racing equipment through his Mittler Brothers company.
Among those chiming in with memories and well-wishes Friday:
Devastated to lose a friend and mentor to Cancer today. Somethings just don’t make sense…
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 10, 2019
Well said Kenny. He helped me get to where I’m at today like he selflessly did for so many others in Motorsports today.
I was planning to go see him tomorrow morning in his house in St. Louis. So sad to not get to say goodbye. https://t.co/8TtnYY72Fc
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 11, 2019
Lost a dear friend today. Mike Mittler gave me my first big break in NASCAR. He loved racing as much or more than anyone I have ever been around. I will always cherish the time I spent racing for Mike and his wife Bev. pic.twitter.com/0wpmJ74wKI
— Jamie McMurray (@jamiemcmurray) May 11, 2019
If you drove a race car in the Midwest you dreamed of Mike finding you. He gave a lot of racers the opportunity of a lifetime in his trucks. 2 of them became superstars! https://t.co/WTwYajiHvJ
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) May 11, 2019
Sorry to hear that legendary @NASCAR and short track racer Mike Mittler passed away today. Mike helped a lot of young drivers get their start and built equipment that we all use in our shops everyday. Thank you Mike.
— David Ragan (@DavidRagan) May 10, 2019
Knew the day was coming we would lose Mike Mittler but it doesn't make it any easier. Our family has been tight with Mike for 20+ years &sold most of our trucks to him when we shut down. I helped Mike at Martinsville a couple years ago and we finished really well. God speed buddy
— Brian Keselowski (@KeselowskiBrian) May 11, 2019
Contributing: Zack Albert, Brad Norman