Matt Hummel Named 2020 USAC Chief Mechanic of the Year

By: Richie Murray - USAC Media

 

Speedway, Indiana (January 9, 2021).........If there's one particular moment that fully encapsulated the sense of pride and preparedness 2020 USAC Chief Mechanic of the Year Matt Hummel, Brady Bacon and Dynamics, Inc. undertake before, after and during a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car event, it was an early-summer night in June 2020 where the team's fortunes were put to the ultimate test.

 

At that juncture, Bacon had yet to finish outside the top-ten and was just within earshot of the series point lead.  A nasty flip by Bacon on the fourth lap of the feature that night seemingly spelled disaster at first glance with the car being returned to the team's pit with heavy damage on the hook.

 

The evening was salvaged when the crew, led by Hummel, thrashed during the red flag period to repair the car, refusing to toss in the towel, and miraculously returned Bacon to the track in mere minutes, just in time for the resumption.  With a caved-in tail tank and all, Bacon blitzed back through the field to finish 9th.

 

Although it was still relatively early in the campaign, it was one of those moments you made sure to make a mental note of.  If the championship race were to come down to the wire with Bacon involved in the thick of it, this very well could tell the tale of whether they'd become champions or not.

 

Even more than just the points aspect of the ordeal, it was the mentality.  Racing seasons are chock full of obstacles, but none more than 2020 with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on everyone's initial plans from March onward.  With the normal offseason, the team did its usual prep and arrived at Ocala, Florida's Bubba Raceway Park with both guns blazing, sweeping both nights of Winter Dirt Games with a pair of feature victories after charging from ninth each night.

 

Then, the worldwide pandemic hit, forcing teams back into hibernation mode for the time being and allowing them a chance at practically a second offseason to prepare for the coming busy stretch with race-after-race stacked upon each other throughout the racing summer.

 

Preparedness and being ready for anything, to expect the unexpected, formulated the root of Hummel and the team's mantra for the campaign, "just make it happen," resulting in Bacon ultimately capturing his third USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car driving title while Dynamics, Inc. extended its record to 12 series entrant championships.  And, Matt Hummel, an 11-time USAC National Midget feature starter as a driver himself behind the wheel during the decade of the 2000s, was rewarded as USAC's Chief Mechanic of the Year.

 

"The year started off great in Florida, then we had such a down period of time," Hummel recalled.  "I think between D.J. (Lebow) and Brady at the shop, they did a lot of stuff to get us fully prepared for the season.  Once we got rolling again, it seemed like it got really busy with everything packed together.  It's just a testament to the team.  Yeah, we had some obstacles, but I think I learned from Brady to just get it taken care of; it's going to work out, and that's how it happened."

 

Hummel and Bacon have raced against each other on-track and have formed a bond over the years that dates back more than a decade.  After working together and finding success, separately, Bacon's driving career was on the rise as was Hummel's FK Indy shock business on Gasoline Alley in Indianapolis, Ind.

 

When the opportunity arose a few years back, Hummel and Bacon rejoined to form a formidable pairing, one that managed to withstand a slew of engine-related issues midsummer in 2020 to win a season-high six events, twice each at Ocala, Fla. and Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind., plus once each in the financially lucrative Brandt Corn Belt Nationals at Iowa's Knoxville Raceway ($20,000) and the season-ending Fall Nationals at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway worth $10,000.

 

A large part of the equation of the success is Hummel and Bacon's communication, with Bacon's feedback allowing Hummel to make the necessary adjustments and also provide him the best shock possible to meet any desired task.  And, although Hummel never really thought he would be in this position as a USAC championship winning crew chief, the reward is more than satisfying.

 

"I never really looked at being a chief mechanic on a USAC team and winning a championship as a goal of mine," Hummel admitted.  "It's gratifying that I can be an integral part to the success of the team.  We've had our struggles in year's past.   I'd get down a little bit, he'd get down a little bit.  Then, we'd have discussions, and he'd be like, 'we're going to work this out.  We're going to figure it out.'  I think, this year, we truly did figure it out because we can only count maybe one or two occasions where we showed up at the racetrack and, come feature time, we just missed it.  Other than that, we felt like we were a top-five car, at worst, even on tracks that maybe weren't our forte.  It just goes to show, yeah, I'm the crew chief, but it's the team that makes it work."

 

With a strong foundation built, built on preparedness that has brought about a high amount of success, Hummel is looking highly forward to what the 2021 season brings.  But, more than anything, the 40-year-old crew chief is most looking forward to normality.

 

"I'm excited.  I'm glad to see the schedule.  It's a great schedule with a lot of diversity in it.  That'll be cool for us to go to some different places and get back to normal and know that we're going here and it's not Sunday, 'hey we might race here, Friday or Saturday, we'll let you know,'" Hummel said with a laugh.

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