Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hickory Motor Speedway’s history is his thing


Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 10:50 pm | Updated: 10:50 pm, Thu Aug 15, 2013.

BY TOM GILLISPIE Special to the Record

HICKORY, N.C. -- Joshua Cummings wasn’t there when Ralph Earnhardt and Ned Jarrett won Hickory Motor Speedway championships, and he wasn’t around when Jarrett ran the track in the 1970s.

He wasn’t even born.

Still, he’s turning into a historian for the 62-year-old track.

Cummings is the marketing director for the Catawba County Historical Association and the Catawba County Museum of History. He got that job at least partly because he volunteered to do a 2011 exhibit of HMS history for the county museum.

He collected trophies and other memorabilia from HMS standouts like Robert Huffman, Dennis Setzer, Morgan Shepherd, John Settlemyre, Ned and Dale Jarrett, the Dexter Canipes and others.

“I got five trophies from Robert Huffman for his five Goodys Dash Series championships and Morgan’s last Cup trophy in 1994 (for a victory at Atlanta),” Cummings said enthusiastically. “It was a neat exhibit, and we had a lot of people come by to see it.

“A lot of racers had been keeping their trophies at their house, and nobody had been able to see them. So this was a chance for people to see them. Robert (Huffman) let us put all five championship trophies on display, and people loved seeing them.”

Cummings, 27, has been a Hickory Motor Speedway fan most of his life. The family moved from Florida to Newton when he was in grade school, and he’d hear the roar of the engines on Saturdays. He became intrigued, and friend Jeff Witt took him to the track when he was 10.

He realized he didn’t want to race himself, but as a teenager he volunteered to help the track’s tire specialist inspect tires to prevent cheating. Then in 2004, he was still at Newton-Conover High when he worked under Troy Kelley as an intern mechanic for Shepherd.

After graduating high school in 2005, Cummings entered the Bobby Isaac Motorsports Program at Catawba Valley Community College. That lasted only six months, as Kelley invited him to work for KW Racing, an ARCA team based in Mooresville. After driver Ken Weaver left the team, Cummings switched to Green Light Racing, a Truck Series team owned by Bobby Dotter.

“Bobby Dotter is the gentleman I worked with most,” Cummings said. “I’ve been able to keep up with him as far as friendship. I’ve gone with him to a couple of races at Martinsville (Speedway). He deserves a lot of credit; he’s been able to accomplish a lot without a lot of funds.”

Cummings says he got burned out with the race grind in 2009, and he came home to work for his dad, Ernest, an appliance repairman. It wasn’t racing, but he had time to have a life again. Then he met museum director Melinda Herzog in 2011 and offered to do the exhibit. The job at the historical association came open last year.

He says he knows too many drivers personally to have a favorite.

“I’m good friends with Landon Huffman, Austin McDaniel, Shane Lee, Dexter Canipe Sr. and Jr., Ben Ebeling and others,” said Cummings, who also helps track promoter Kevin Piercy on race day. “There are tons of them that I’m good friends with.”

Cummings says he doesn’t plan to go back to college in the near future. He still loves racing but doesn’t plan to venture back into it fulltime anytime soon.

“When I worked for Morgan, Troy told me, ‘It takes 80 hours to build a race car and eight seconds to wreck it,’ and that stuck with me,” Cummings said. “I don’t want to push away from racing.”

Tom Gillispie, the author of “Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr.,” writes about racing at Hickory Motor Speedway for HDR Sports. He can be reached at

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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