2008 Ride: No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge
2008 Sponsor: Marathon American Sprint Motor Oil
2008 Owner: Kyle Petty
2008 Crew Chief: Stewart Cooper
Stats: 6 races, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 0 poles, 52nd in points
Best Finish: 17th – Pocono (July)
High Point: Young Chad McCumbee’s high point in 2008 occurred in his first race he qualified for with the No. 45 team. After a rough start at Pocono, the young driver managed to move up from his 34th starting position to finish 17th, on the lead lap, due to a fuel-mileage gamble that paid off. While this may not sound like a major accomplishment, the team had only two top-20 finishes at that point in the year (a 17th at Sonoma and a 16th at Daytona in July by Terry Labonte). As a result, the finish was just enough to give the team hope as it looked to the future of the organization.
Low Point: Probably the season finale at Homestead and the weeks that followed. McCumbee qualified 28th, his highest starting position in 2008, only to drop 11 spots and finish 39th with a miserable-handling car. Then, shortly after the season, Petty Enterprises – now owned by investor group Boston Ventures – went into merger talks with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. With consolidation imminent, this would mean a 2009 NASCAR season without a Petty-owned team – and no spot behind the wheel for their young new talent.
Summary: There isn’t a whole lot to summarize for McCumbee’s season, making it a difficult one to put a viable grade on. While the Pettys hoped to put a full-time Nationwide Series deal together for the young driver, nothing materialized, and that forced him to again run the Truck Series in the No. 8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet. While he was fairly successful there, McCumbee struggled for P.E. in the Cup Series while running a limited schedule for a team that even former champion Terry Labonte couldn’t even do much for. He did manage two top-25 finishes, though, showing that there is definitely potential if the equipment underneath him improved. However, with the planned merger between Petty and GEM, we may never see how a future in the No. 45 car would have worked out.
2009 Outlook: Just days after being told he’d be assured a limited schedule in the renumbered No. 44 Dodge for Petty, McCumbee’s future took a turn for the worse as news broke of the team’s pending merger. With no room at the inn at GEM, the free agent will likely be forced back into the Truck Series – if his old No. 8 team can drum up enough money to compete full-time.
2007 Frontstretch Grade: N/A
2008 Grade: C-