Leaf River native Lee Cunningham has joined Rockford’s Chad Knaus as NASCAR Cup Champions from the Stateline.
Cunningham is the rear tire changer for the 78 car driven by Martin Truex Jr. The 78 car won the season-ending race at Homestead, Florida Sunday and with that victory is captured the season points championship.
In a phone interview Eyewitness News asked Cunningham (who lives in North Carolina) how it feels to be a champion.
“It feels awesome. It’s definitely a weight off your shoulders. You don’t know how many opportunities you’ll ever get to do it so you obviously want to make the most of it. Honestly I have to go back and watch the race because I don’t remember much of it.”
So what were the final few laps of Sunday’s race like for Cunningham when it became clear the 78 car was going to win?
“With about three (laps) to go I was a nervous wreck,” says Cunningham. “Obviously it worked out very well. As soon as I heard ‘White Flag’ I started bawling like a baby.”
Then came the post race celebration and one moment Cunningham won’t soon forget.
“The coolest thing is we were taking a few pictures and a little five year old boy came up and hugged my leg and said, ‘You’re my hero!,’ and that about made me cry.”
Cunningham and the rest of the 78 team will get to go to the White House in January to be honored for their championship season.