Chad McCumbee celebrates in victory lane after holding off Corey Heim to win the Myrtle Beach 400 on Saturday evening. (Photo: Corey Latham)

A victory for Chad McCumbee in the Myrtle Beach 400 proved to be anything but easy for him on Saturday evening, as he had to overcome numerous obstacles inside and outside the car to take the checkered flag first in front of a talented field of drivers.

McCumbee was tasked with holding off several contenders for the win that included Layne Riggs, Justin Johnson and Corey Heim, but he successfully managed to save his tires enough to have one of the fastest cars at the end of the race. McCumbee credited his crew for all of the hard work they put in his #16 to turn it into a race-winning car, and he plans to cherish his Myrtle Beach 400 victory for a long time.

“I really wasn’t super happy with our car in practice,” McCumbee said. “It was the most consistent I had ever been, but we just lacked some speed, which were able to find in qualifying and that gave me confidence. The guys did a great job fixing the setup, but the key was trying to dictate the race and riding where I wanted to ride. I’m amazed that our car was that good at the end of the race.”

Despite struggling with his car early in the day, McCumbee managed to transfer himself into the main event with his qualifying run, but he would have to find a way to win the race from the 13th starting position. McCumbee would also have to chase down Riggs, who secured the pole position for the 250-lap feature while simultaneously keeping defending Myrtle Beach 400 winner Josh Berry behind him.

The start of the race began in typical Myrtle Beach 400 fashion, with most of the field staying close together as everyone attempted to save tires. The opening stint would see Riggs, Heim, Tommy Lemons Jr. and Bradley McCaskill all take turns leading the large pack of cars, but Heim proved to be the most efficient at saving his tires by pulling away with the lead until the halfway break.

Heim was not the only one who began to mount a charge at the end of the first half, as both Berry and McCumbee worked their way through the field to find themselves inside the Top 10 for the second half of the race. McCumbee knew that Berry would provide a tough challenge for him, but he was confident that he could set the pace if he managed to find his way to the front of the pack.

It would only take two laps after the restart for Berry’s hopes of repeating as a Myrtle Beach 400 to come to an abrupt end, as he would get turned into the wall on the frontstretch in an accident that also collected Jamie Weatherford and McCumbee’s teammate Sam Yarborough. McCumbee moved himself into the third position shortly before the yellow, which helped him get past Lemons and Will Burns for the lead on the next restart.

McCumbee planned to ride around as the leader until the final laps of the race, but he found himself under constant attack from drivers that included Johnson and Dexter Canipe Jr., who both took turns trading the lead with McCumbee. However, both Johnson and Canipe failed to save tires as efficiently as McCumbee, who regained the lead with less than 40 laps remaining and began to pull away from the field.

As McCumbee tried to stretch out his lead, Heim began running the fastest lap times of the race and found himself in second place with less than 30 laps remaining. McCumbee listened intently to his spotter as he was giving him information on Heim’s lap times and where he was running on the track, but he encountered another problem as the laps wound down.

“With 40 to go, the exhaust broke,” McCumbee said. “It from being the most awful sound ever rattling around in the car to all the fumes coming inside the car. By the end of it, I was just hoping and praying that the laps would keep going by. That’s the most disoriented I’ve ever been.”

McCumbee did not let the carbon monoxide exposure get to him, as he began to increase his lap times the minute he received word that Heim had moved into second place. Both of them would run faster than each other on different laps, but McCumbee’s consistency allowed him to build a comfortable advantage over Heim, which helped him bring home his first Myrtle Beach 400 trophy.

While McCumbee was celebrating, Heim could not help but feel disappointed with his second place finish after having three victories in his first three Late Model starts being taken away from him due to events outside of his control. However, Heim took away a lot of positives in what was his final start of the 2018 season, and added that he is looking forward to what next season brings.

“P2 is nothing to hang our heads about,” Heim said. “I’m really happy to come here with a fast car, which didn’t have a scratch on it. I can’t thank my guys enough for giving me all these fast cars so far, and we’re extremely fast everywhere we go. Hopefully we’ll be back next year and get our first win in a Late Model Stock.”

McCumbee stated in victory lane that his purpose in the second half of the race was to put himself in the right position and not abuse his equipment just in case he needed to make a strong push at the finish. McCumbee’s conservative approach paid off against Heim over the final laps of the race, adding that beating Lee Pulliam’s equipment in Myrtle Beach’s most prestigious race of the year is a huge confidence booster to him and his team.

“I knew with about 40 to go that I had something left,” McCumbee said. “That 78 was so good that first half, and Lee does such an incredible job with his program. He came down here and kicked our butt for a whole year, and to be able to run with them is a huge accomplishment.”

Ryan Millington, who made several three-wide maneuvers in the second half of the Myrtle Beach 400 to move up through the field, came home with a third place finish. Tommy Lemons Jr. settled for fourth, while defending Virginia Late Model Triple Crown winner Peyton Sellers rounded out the Top 5.

Myrtle Beach 400 Race Results:

1. 16m Chad McCumbee
2. 78 Corey Heim
3. 15 Ryan Millington
4. 27 Tommy Lemons Jr.
5. 26s Peyton Sellers
6. 41 Will Burns
7. 07 Bradley McCaskill
8. 11 Lucas Williams
9. 95h Jacob Heafner
10. 12p Timothy Peters
11. 9s Luke Sorrow
12. 02m Justin Milliken -1
13. 36m Neil Meredith -1
14. 99r Layne Riggs -1
15. 19 Wes Burton -1
16. 83 Jeremy McDowell -1
17. 44j Justin Johnson -1
18. 5c Dexter Canipe Jr. -1
19. 46 Thad Moffitt -2
20. 18r David Roberts -2
21. 24 Colin Garrett -2
22. 26v Brian Vause -2
23. 17b Bryant Barnhill -3
24. 7h Michael Hardin -3
25. 9m Sam Mayer -5
26. 8h Tyler Hughes -7
27. 61 Justin Hicks OUT
28. 19b Cameron Bowen OUT
29. 8r Trevor Rizzo OUT
30. 88b Josh Berry OUT
31. 94 Jamie Weatherford OUT
32. 95y Sam Yarborough OUT
33. 51 Matt Cox OUT
34. 60 RA Brown OUT
35. 12B Blaise Brinkley OUT
36. 9h Ashton Higgins OUT
37. 7c Justin Crider OUT
38. 10 Ed Williams OUT
39. 18g Ty Gibbs OUT
40. 1f Michael Faulk OUT
41. 90 Terry Carroll OUT
42. 2p Brandon Pierce OUT
43. 0s Justin Snow OUT