76-Year-Old Cummings Still Driving With A Smile

76-Year-Old Cummings
Bob Cummings has been racing late models on Missouri dirt tracks for more than 50 years. (Kenny Shaw photo)

WHEATLAND, Mo. – Whether it’s driving race cars or reflecting on his time in the Navy, Bob Cummings isn’t much for dwelling on the past.

That ability to focus on the present and look to the future probably is why Cummings is still going strong in a dirt late model at the age of 76.

“Every race is a fun time and every week is a new adventure,” said Cummings, who’s been racing on Missouri tracks for more than 50 years. “I don’t stay with the memories for too long. I always look to the future. Every week is fun.”

Cummings, of Sedalia, will be back in action on Saturday when the Big Adventure RV Weekly Racing Series resumes. The Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mods are featured, running a special 25-lap, $750-to-win main event.

It will be Military and Veterans Appreciation Night, with all active military members and veterans admitted free with ID. Cummings is one of a handful of Lucas Oil Speedway competitors who are military veterans, having served in the Navy.

“That was a long, long time ago … and I really don’t even remember much about it,” said Cummings, who owns and operates Bob’s Auto Shack in Sedalia.

“I did spend most of my time here, in the continental United States,” he added.

Asked about rumors that he is planning to hang up the racing helmet at the end of the season, Cummings said that is a possibility, though he’s not ready to make a final decision.

Right now, he’s just taking it a week at a time and still enjoys competing in the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Model division, where he’s 20th in points.

“We have old cars that are worn out and I’m about worn out,” Cummings said with a laugh. “But it’s still fun.”

Cummings got his first race car in 1967, when he competed in what was called the “Hobo” class at the old Marshall Speedway in central Missouri. It was the forerunner of what later became late models in that part of the state.

“I had a ’56 Chrysler with a Hemi engine in it,” he said. “It was the old-style Hemi, not the good one. We didn’t win much. Maybe had a second in a B feature a few times back then.”

Asked about his inspiration to start racing, Cummings said “some dummy told me we ought to build a Figure 8 car. Of course, Figure 8 racing went out the first year I started running.

“I don’t know, when I first got on that track, it was an awful lot of fun,” Cumming continued. “I never could seem to stop. Then we raised four kids and they also got interested in other sports. When they got grown, I started racing more and more. We raced at Marshall and California, Mo., at that time, and also later on at I-44 Speedway when it was dirt and at Sedalia.

“We just went all over the place, when we could.”

Cummings said he’s seen many changes in late model dirt racing over the years, with technology vital to succeed in the modern era.

“Technology has got crazy,” he said. “Shocks are a big thing. Everything changes – except for the purses. Cars are a lot more expenses to run and repair and the purses can’t keep up … but no one puts a gun to my head to make me do this.

“They’re still better cars than we had in the old days. Technology is what it is. Racing will go on.”

Cummings said he enjoys being around the track and mixing it up with the younger late model drivers, like 18-year-old Kaeden Cornell, who’s an up-and-comer in the division.

“I really enjoy racing again guys of all ages, young and old,” added Cummings, who offered up some sage advice for all – no matter the age or weekend hobby.

“You have to ride the horse while you can, because sometimes it tuckers out,” he smiled.