NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Matt McCall clocked out on Sunday night in Miami, his work on the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet complete for now, and has immediately moved on to the natural next step for any true racer with a little bit of free time on his hands.
He’s going to go race.
The 36-year-old is returning to his Late Model Stock roots this weekend by filing an entry to compete in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina. The event is the last of the year for perimeter rail Late Models and is also one of its most prestigious.
Before transitioning into the role of a full-time engineer, McCall was a highly touted Late Model prospect. He is a multiple time winner at Southern National and the 2009 UARA Series champion. In recent years, he has spent off-weekends back in a car simply to scratch the itch.
This weekend is no exception.
“Once a short tracker, always a short tracker, right,” McCall told Short Track Scene on Wednesday night. “I’d race in the middle of the week if I could, anytime there was a race, if I could take a break from the real job.
“I know there are guys who spend hours working on their cars and I respect how much time it takes to do this right. But for me, stepping in a car this weekend is almost like a stress reliever.”
McCall is once again racing an entry out of Wendell Davis’ stable — reuniting the same duo that captured the 2009 UARA championship. Last year, McCall finished third in the Thanksgiving Classic to Tommy Lemons, Jr. and Brenden Queen. He ran inside the top-5 throughout much of the race, but a series of late race cautions and a late race restart ultimately kept him from being able to make the winning move.
Even though he wants to win, just having the chance to be competitive in these one-offs is enough to satisfy McCall. He just wants to be in the mix after 200 laps on Sunday afternoon.
“We have the equipment,” McCall said. “Wendell keeps the car in his shop, but it’s just been hanging out. We did a test and it was okay. But it’s always hard to tell. You can get these cars right and then take it back to the track and the track has changed so much.
“But if we can get it close, and work on it, we should be able to get there at the end.”
Above all else, this is a homecoming for McCall, whom started racing at Southern National for Jerry Moody. Even Davis’ shop is a quick drive away from SNMP.
“Southern National is really close to Wendell’s shop and there’s a lot of value in this track,” McCall explained. “Basically, Jerry Moody gave me my chance to start racing here, racing for him, and later for Wendell. I think, to come back and race here is always fun. I would consider it a home track for sure.”
And everyone wants to win at home.
Read more Short Track Scene:
- Thanksgiving Classic Schedule
- Thanksgiving Classic Late Model Stock Entry List
- Here’s why Chase Elliott and Erik Jones will not race the Derby