INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Hummel, who wrenched Brady Bacon’s No. 69 Dynamics, Inc. sprint car for Hoffman Auto Racing last season, was named USAC Chief Mechanic of the Year Saturday.
Notably, if there’s one particular moment that fully encapsulated the sense of pride and preparedness that Hummel, Bacon and Dynamics Inc. undertake in their work, it was an early-summer night last June 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.
But 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 ninth.
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, that 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 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.”
That resulted 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 Hummel, an 11-time USAC National Midget feature starter as a driver himself behind the wheel during 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 raced against each other on-track and 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 to win a season-high six events.
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.
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.
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,” said Hummel. “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.’”