Driver Spotlight: Chad McCumbee
Driver, No. 5 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 (CTSC)
What was your path to becoming a professional driver?
“My Dad was a racer. He was a motocross racer, a dirt track racer, road course kart racer and coming up I really didn’t have a tremendous amount of interest in it until a local dirt track opened up near us and my Dad got another go-kart, and I got one and got interested in it and that was at age 10. I probably got my big break in 2004. I graduated high school and went to UNC-Charlotte for college and in turn decided to go to the Fast Track Driving School. I was just a late model racer at Myrtle Beach Speedway and I knew if I was going to make it, I needed to be in Charlotte. I met Andy Hillenburg and he told me if I stuck around he would help me. I cleaned bathrooms, I washed cars in the freezing cold, I did the laundry, I swept the floors, I did all that stuff and it worked. I got in. Since then, I’ve met all these people and I was fortunate to meet C.J. (Wilson, car owner) and the ModSpace people and here I am.”
How tough is the ST competition this year?
“I think we have a shot at a championship. I think our ModSpace car is good week in and week out. We’re in a unique position with our platform of car because there are some tracks we’re going to be extremely strong at and some that we’re going to really struggle to make speed. But in general, the platform we’ve been given with our Mazda MX-5 is good and thus far we’re competitive every week and we’ve surprised ourselves at some places that we didn’t think we were going to be good at. Coming from the NASCAR ranks into road racing I didn’t really know what to expect, in general. But I can tell you, it’s really opened my eyes as to how many talented drivers there are in our country and in our sport.”
What are some of the challenges Lime Rock presents as a track?
“Lime Rock is the place I drove my first sports car back in 2011 or ’12. I actually got to drive a MX-5 Cup car. When I was involved with ModSpace in stock cars, they were involved with C.J. and asked me if I would like to come do it and luckily, it was one of the places I didn’t have to shift much. Fortunately I only had “x” amount of corners to get around but unfortunately, they’re all going the wrong way (he says with a laugh). If we ran the track backwards I probably would have had a great time. That was a challenge a few years ago and I think I’m up to race number 24 on a road course in my career so I still feel like I’m a novice but those laps at Lime Rock we’re really eye-opening to a whole different side of motorsports.”
What does a driver have to adjust to going to a shorter track like Lime Rock?
“It probably feels more like home to me because it’s like being at a short track, Saturday night special type stuff. That’s what I’m used to. They have to split the classes up because it’s such a short track and it literally drives, and it almost presents itself, like a short track on the oval side of things. It’s tight and there’s a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing. It’s tough to pass and sometimes there’s contact or you have to move someone a little bit, but they don’t seem to like that on this side of the fence. I don’t think there’s much of an adjustment. There’s not a long straightaway where we sometimes struggle, you’ve really got to roll through those short corners. Mazda Raceway and Sebring have been good to us and those coupled with Lime Rock is maybe our early season tri-fecta.”
What do you do with your C.J. Wilson teammates when you’re on the road, but not on the track?
“I enjoy playing golf, but I’m not very good at it. I tell people that my bowling score and my golf score are about the same, just a little over 100. We had some off-time at Road America once and we decided to go golfing but we didn’t have anything to wear so we got some apparel from the local Goodwill and we had a good time with it. Tyler (McQuarrie, teammate) has plenty of GoPro’s so we have plenty of evidence of everything that happened. It’s such a great group of guys, we all get along really good. We all know how fortunate we are to be in the situation we are so we know what everybody is thinking, what our motives are, we’re all going after the same goals. It’s been a fun trip. You want to be in a position like that and it’s a blast to be with them.”