Editor’s Note: With the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing racing around the globe to a sudden stop, Sprint Car & Midget’s sister website, SPEED SPORT, is reaching out to members of the racing community to find out how the outbreak is impacting them, both as racers and in their daily lives.
This story is part of that ongoing series.
TOLEDO, Ohio — While life has shifted dramatically for much of the racing world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for five-time Must See Racing Sprint Car Series presented by Engine Pro champion Jimmy McCune, not much has changed.
McCune, who works at an auto repair and salvage yard during the week when he’s not traveling to sprint car races across the country, is part of an essential business and therefore has largely maintained his traditional schedule through the current public health situation.
“Nothing is too terribly different for us,” McCune told Sprint Car & Midget. “We’re still working and doing the same things we always do. So really, as far as our life is concerned, it hasn’t really affected us at all. I’m still working. I haven’t had one day off yet; my hours have adjusted a little bit, but nothing’s changed for us, man. Life is still the same. Nobody’s gotten sick close to us, thankfully, as of yet … but we’re thinking about those who are dealing with this and hoping for the best for all of them.
“The kids not being in school would probably be the biggest thing that’s changed for us right now.”
The only real difference, McCune noted, is a lack of racing. That’s something he’s not used to at all.
“We’re racers, so it’s not fun sitting at home, you know?” he said. “At least I got to go to South Africa somewhat recently and do those races over there, so that was good and got us some seat time and back into a rhythm. But now, here we are sitting for another couple of months, so it’s a different feeling.
“Hopefully this world gets back to normal — whatever that normal is going to be — and we can get some racing in before too long.”
As mentioned, McCune took a trip to South Africa to compete in a winged sprint car in early January.
Competing at two different facilities, McCune swept the competition, winning all three events he entered.
“It was a really good trip,” he noted. “I mean, you can’t do any better than what we did down there. It’s always fun to travel over there and enjoy some racing with all the friends we’ve made in that part of the world over the last few years. It makes the offseason a little less long and it’s a different feel than the season that we race over here in the States.”
In terms of looking toward this season, McCune is set to defend the Must See Racing title when racing resumes in the United States. He’ll be seeking his sixth straight championship.
While he won the crown over Ryan Litt last fall — his fifth in a row — McCune’s season was hampered by a rare engine failure in the second race of the year and several mechanical gremlins throughout.
It’s those “little things” McCune hopes an extended break will solve, as he and his family team go through their sprint cars to massage all the parts and pieces and make sure everything is working properly for when it’s time to get back to the track again.
“Anthony (McCune, Jimmy’s nephew) experienced a little bit more than what we did, but we did have that engine failure, which is not common for us. But it happens in racing,” McCune said. “As far as the cars go, though, we’re pretty much ready to rock and roll whenever they say go.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is work on our Little Five (Little 500) program and try to get that all sorted out,” he continued. “The good news is now we’ve got plenty of time to get that sorted out. So the hope is that we’ll get out and do some testing with that car and dial it in so we can see what the end of the season brings us as far as running that race in September.”
When Labor Day weekend does roll around, McCune said that — barring anything crazy happening — fans will see his familiar No. 88, sans the wing, for the biggest non-winged sprint car event in the country.
The Pay Less Little 500 is scheduled for Sept. 5 and has been televised on MAVTV through the award-winning SPEED SPORT presented by Hendrick Automotive Group series since 2017.
“We’re rolling into it open-minded,” said McCune of the Little 500. “We do some testing each year, and this year we were planning on a little bit of a different car and a different package, just trying to find something that makes us happy there (at Indiana’s Anderson Speedway).
“If we can get that and then we do the testing and everything goes well, then we’ll probably be at the race.”
And as far as his Must See Racing plans, don’t expect McCune to take any other approach to chasing a sixth straight title than the one that’s gotten him the first five.
“We go to every race to win, and that’s what we intend to do again. We want to win and win often.”