Late Model veteran Chad McCumbee concluded his 2008 season with strong optimism about his future chances of earning a top ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Although the Supply, North Carolina native only compiled an average finish of 32.3 during the season driving for Petty Enterprises, he had recorded eight Top 10 finishes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driving the #8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet, which made him one of the more intriguing prospects going into the 2009 season.
A combination of factors, which included the demise of Petty Enterprises as well as the fallout from the Great Recession, ultimately caused McCumbee’s full-time Cup aspirations to fade away. Malcolmson also released McCumbee at the end of the 2008 Truck Series season, which led to the Supply, North Carolina native becoming a journeyman driver across all three of NASCAR’s major series, before making his final major NASCAR start in the 2013 Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he finished 33rd.
McCumbee’s misfortunes in NASCAR did not affect his love for racing, as he still competes in various forms of auto racing, which includes Late Model races along the east coast. Although McCumbee wishes that things had panned out differently for him back in the late 2000s, he added that he is satisfied with where his auto-racing career is at this point in his life.
“I feel really fortunate to get to the top level of stock car racing,” McCumbee said. “I wouldn’t go back and change anything, but it was just bad timing with the Petty Enterprises merger and how things shook out there that prevented me from going further, but ultimately I’ve still had a good, long career.”
McCumbee’s stock car career, which includes portraying Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the television movie 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story, began in 2004 when he made his ARCA debut in the Flagstar 200 at Michigan International Speedway driving for Fast Track Racing. The race ended in disaster for McCumbee when he collided with C.W. Smith on the 21st lap of the race, which resulted in his car flipping several times in Turn 2.
McCumbee walked away from the accident unscathed and was able to secure a full-time ARCA ride with Fast Track for the 2005 season. After a slow start to the season, McCumbee gradually began to get more comfortable behind the wheel of his #11 Fast Track Driving School Chevrolet, has he scored seven Top 5 finishes, including a then-career-best run at Pocono where he finished 2nd to Frank Kimmel. McCumbee’s success helped him to obtain a full-time Truck Series ride for the 2006 season, and later a part-time Cup Series ride in the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge for Petty Enterprises.
With his opportunities in NASCAR beginning to dry up as the 2010s progressed, McCumbee accepted an offer from former Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson to co-drive his Mazda MX-5 in the ST class of the Grand-Am Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series in 2013. It did not take long for the NASCAR veteran to become acclimated with his new surroundings, as McCumbee has scored six class victories in the series over the past three years, which includes sharing the ST class championship with co-driver Stevan McAleer in 2015.
McCumbee will contend for the Grand Sport Championship in the Continental Tire Series co-driving the #8 Ford Mustang GT4 alongside Patrick Gallagher. McCumbee stated that he plans to balance sports car racing with his Late Model program and that he hopes to have an opportunity to race in prestigious events like the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Stock car racing is what I grew up with, and it’s what I know and what I love,” McCumbee said. “However, sports car racing has been a breath of fresh air, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my relationship with Mazda. It’s a new talent, and I want to see how far I can get, with the ultimate goal being to get to the WeatherTech SportsCar Series. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of success in the early going, and I just hope it continues.”
Whenever McCumbee is not busy endurance racing at tracks such as Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway, he can be found trading paint with names like Lee Pulliam and Tommy Lemons Jr. at Myrtle Beach Speedway. McCumbee has been a regular at the half-mile short track over the past several years and has been a frontrunner in most of the races he has competed in, earning over 20 Top 5’s and scoring a victory in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons at the track.
McCumbee is coming off another solid part-time season at Myrtle Beach despite not visiting victory lane once in the track’s Late Model division, as he scored five Top 5 finishes, including a career-best showing of 3rd in the Myrtle Beach 400, and finished 12th overall in Late Model points standings. Myrtle Beach has been a huge part of McCumbee’s career since his early Late Model days, and he is looking forward to adding to his accomplishments at the track in 2018, which he hopes will include a victory in the Myrtle Beach 400.
“Myrtle Beach served as a major stepping stone in my career,” McCumbee said. “It’s where I ran my first Late Model Stock race, and it’s where I won my very first Late Model Stock race. Even though I never got to compete full-time back then, it helped prepare me for ARCA and all of the other big auto racing divisions. It’s always been special to me, and from both a setup and a driver standpoint, the track presents a unique set of challenges that no other track can offer.”
McCumbee will once again team up with long-time friend Robert Elliott to pilot the #16 Robert Elliott Trucking Late Model in select races throughout the season, but the two will mainly focus on fielding a second, full-time #20 Late Model for Myrtle Beach veteran Sam Yarbrough. Unlike in previous years, McCumbee plans to branch out from exclusively racing Late Models at Myrtle Beach, as he hopes to run 10-15 Super Late Model races in 2018.
The season-opening Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach is the center of McCumbee’s focus going into the weekend, as both he and Yarbrough are projected to be race favorites with reigning track champion Lee Pulliam announcing his retirement from full-time racing in late January. The McCumbee-Elliott Racing drivers highlight a talent-filled entry list for the 3rd annual Icebreaker, which includes three-time ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Philip Morris, who will look to begin his quest for a fifth Whelen All-American Series Championship with a victory at Myrtle Beach.