CONVERSATION WITH ... CHAD MCCUMBEE
Chad McCumbee is a business major at UNC Charlotte and aspiring Nextel Cup racer. He plays Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the TV movie "3," an ESPN production about the late Dale Earnhardt set to premiere Dec. 11. McCumbee, 19, spoke with staff writer Jennifer Rothacker.
How did you land the role of Dale Jr.?
Actually, I'm an instructor at the Fast Track High Performance Driving School in Harrisburg. The guy playing Earnhardt (Barry Pepper) came through the school to get accustomed to what's going on and asked me about the part. I think they were having a hard time finding a Dale Jr. Barry knew I had a racing background and I look pretty similar to (Earnhardt Jr.).
I gave him my card, somebody called me and I interviewed the next week (at a Charlotte production office).
What was the audition?
I read a few lines with Barry Pepper, and they called me the next week and said they'd like to have me cast in it.
Have you ever acted?
Never had anything to do with it until then.
So were you hesitant to take the part?
Somewhat. I want to be a racer. Been racing since I was 10. As long as I could still race on the weekend, I figured what better way to publicize myself.
Did you take acting lessons?
I had an acting coach. She worked with me quite a bit. Had to teach me a lot and give me a quick crash course.
Describe the filming.
It's a whole other world. Behind the scenes would open your eyes, the amount of work and amount of people it takes to make it all work. So much going on. I was on the set two to three days a week.... I played (Earnhardt Jr.) from age 15 to about 27.
So how did your performance end up?
I think they got what they wanted out of me there. If Dale Jr. is happy, I'll be happy.
Did you meet Dale Jr. before filming or do any other research?
I talked with him after I was done (with the film). He was doing a commercial (at a race shop). Talked with him a little bit. He's a pretty busy guy.
I've always been an Earnhardt fan, and that helped.
Tell us about your racing career.
For the first five years, I ran go-karts and won a bunch of races nationally and locally. In 2000, I joined the Allison Legacy series and won two national and two regional championships. For the past year and a half, I've been doing late-model stock car running. I'm doing school for a backup, I knew it was good to get me a degree. But it's full steam ahead on racing.