DVIDS – News – From Race Cars to Helicopters, Blackhawk Crew Chief reflects on life before National Guard
On the small local dirt tracks in West Virginia, young Mike Cummings started to fall in love with the sport of auto racing.
“It was cheap entertainment on a Saturday night, so my parents would take the whole family to the races,” said Sgt. Cummings, a crew chief with Det. 1, Golf Company, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment. “I found myself falling in love with the sport, wanting to know more about the science and how the cars worked.”
Cummings continued to enjoy racing before joining the U.S. Marine Corps after he graduated high school. After eight years in the Marines as a radio technician, Cummings completed his service and started college.
“My original career path was to be a movie technician. I wanted to work behind the scenes on movies,” said Cummings. “I got one semester in to film school before my wife got a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina. So we relocated.”
While making the drive across the country, the Cummings passed a community college just outside of Charlotte and stopped to gather information.
“I wanted to continue school, so I look at the pamphlets for options. I grabbed one for motor sports technology and never looked back,” said Cummings.
Cummings worked his way through the program which required an internship in the motorsports industry.
“It could be hospitality, marketing, operations, mechanical, anything – they didn’t care,” said Cummings.
Cummings’ instructors connected him with a team in the newly formed Craftsman Truck Series, the third-tier racing circuit in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
“In 2000, the truck series made its debut at the Daytona Motor Speedway and I got to be on the pit crew at the first truck race,” said Cummings.
Cummings learned so much working on the crew he eventually moved to the industry side developing and manufacturing shocks and shock absorbers for the cars.
“That job got a position at a top-level team as a shock specialist,” said Cummings.
He worked with drivers Clint Bowyer, 2008 second tier champion, and 2014 NASCAR Champion Kevin Harvick.
“I got to work on both their cars and help them win a few races,” said Cummings.
Cummings work not only helped drivers get on the track, but parts he built were used as props for Will Ferrell’s 2006 film, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
“The scene where Ricky is making his comeback, they open up the hood of the car and you see the shiny engine. The shock absorbers in that scene were ones that I built,” said Cummings. “So I am Ricky Bobby’s shock specialist.”
In 2013, Cummings decided it was time to continue his service. He joined the Washington Army National Guard as a crew chief for the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.
“While working in racing, one of our cars was sponsored by the National Guard. It got me thinking about finishing my service, so I guess the marketing worked,” laughed Cummings.
Cummings started as a traditional Guard member at the Army Aviation Sustainment Facility and became full-time in 2014 as a helicopter mechanic. He isn’t afraid to share his experiences and knowledge with the younger mechanics he works with.
“I tell them that not everyone is a millionaire that owns a race team. So whether it is a million-dollar racecar or a multi-million-dollar helicopter, it is pretty cool getting to work on these types of machines,” said Cummings. “I can look at them and say I got to work on that. It is kind of a point of pride to take ownership of and ensure mission success.”
Cummings says the cross-over between working in NASCAR and on military helicopters is very similar because race cars travel so fast they often have avionic components.
“The quality of equipment in aviation is much higher and often crosses over into racing,” said Cummings.
While he enjoys working full-time in the Guard, Cummings is looking toward the future and what he will do after retiring.
“I have friends that still work in the industry. I have been offered a couple positions, but I am focused on getting to a retirement with the military. After that I might go back, definitely not on a pit crew again, but somewhere in racing,” said Cummings.
|Date Posted:||10.20.2023 10:57|
|Location:||CAMP MURRAY, WA, US|
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