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Cale Conley: “I’m Ready For This Test”

Cale Conley: “I’m Ready For This Test”

by March 11, 2014 0 comments

As NASCAR kisses the west coast goodbye for a week, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and K&N Pro Series East will all hit Bristol Motor Speedway for an action-packed weekend of short track racing.

With the stars of the Sprint Cup Series set to put on a spectacular show throughout all of the racing action scheduled for Sunday, some newer names will be looking to punch their ticket into the big time by delivering strong performances at the half-mile track in the lower series on Saturday.

One of those drivers looking to impress is 21-year-old Cale Conley. Conley, a familiar face to K&N Pro Series East fans, will make his Nationwide Series debut for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 Okuma Camaro.

The native of Vienna, W.Va is a three-year veteran of the K&N Pro Series East who has one victory, three pole positions, and seven top-fives in 32 career starts in the East series. In his one and only start in the Pro Series West, Conley started from the pole and put in a strong effort to finish third at Phoenix International Raceway.

Conley will be running double-duty this weekend as he will attempt to complete both the Nationwide Series’ Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 and the K&N Pro Series East’s PittLite 125 in one day.

The Fourth Turn was able to conduct an exclusive interview with Conley yesterday prior to him leaving for Bristol, Tenn. We talked on the pressures he’s feeling heading into his Nationwide Series debut, his plans for the rest of the year, and his preparations heading into a 425-lap doubleheader.

Question: How/when did this deal with Richard Childress Racing come about? 

I had met him [Richard Childress] in Phoenix in 2012. We sat on the pole out there and he was on pit road and David Hyder, my crew chief at the time, introduced me to him. At that time, I was just starstruck and didn’t have any idea that it could possibly turn into this at that point. So we raced last year in the K&N East Series and I had met one of the fellas that works up here and my relationship with him kind of grew and then the idea of this kind of popped up.

We were juggling back and forth different options and then it kind of faded away, the whole idea of it, then it popped back up again just past New Year’s and this deal came together in five or six days and then it was done. We were working all winter on other stuff and just, we didn’t really see what could have been and then it popped up and I’m so thankful that this opportunity arose and I’m glad we pulled the trigger.

Question: How many races will you be participating in this season?

Right now I’m scheduled for ten, and I’m hoping for some more definitely.

Question: Given that you are a K&N Pro Series East driver, will you be racing primarily on tracks on the Eastern half of the country?

I think that right now it’s more based towards building up to the bigger racetracks than it is East or West. I don’t know all of the tracks I’ll be running, I know I have ten, but I don’t think the East versus the West has anything to do with it I think it’s more of a kind of building up to where we can run full-time next year hopefully.

Question: I know that Richard Childress Racing isn’t running a truck team this year. Was there any talk of moving you to a satellite team to run some races?

Yeah, there has been. I would love to, I’ve never been in a truck before and if that opportunity arises and it’s the right situation for us I think it would be a no-brainer to go get that experience.

Question: Has it sunk in yet that you are five days away from racing with drivers such as Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch?

Kind of, but the more I think about it the more I get nervous. It’s been really helpful working on this K&N car and getting it ready for Bristol as we’re going to run the K&N race as well as the Nationwide. Kind of getting stressed out on whether we’re going to make it. We’re all focused on what we still have to do on the K&N car has been a nice little distraction of nerve displacement, do you know what I mean?

Question: Speaking of the K&N Series, are you looking to attempt all of the races for the rest of the season?

No, we are going to try and do as many as we can and a lot of those will be at the bigger race tracks that’s joint with Nationwide or Cup. And I think we’re going to try and do both road courses. We’re going to see if we can make it work. You never know, you might see us on a short track with these cars too. We have the equipment, it’s just that we don’t really have the team and we’re just trying to make Bristol here and hopefully go do good enough where we’ll carry some momentum into the next couple of races.

Question: How do you mentally prepare for having to race 425 laps in two different race cars in one day?

Not taking anything away from the K&N car, but Nationwide is my primary focus. It’s good because the schedule is apart because on Thursday we can focus on the K&N car with practice and qualifying and on Friday we have Nationwide practice so I’ll be able to put complete focus with having the seat time on the race track the day before which is only going to help I think, then go out and focus on that Nationwide car. Saturday I remain focused on Nationwide, race that race, then I can shift and go and have fun with the K&N car and hopefully battle for the win. You know mental focus I think it’ll be pretty exhausting, but the Cup guys run 500 and I’ve been hitting the gym over the winter, doing a lot of running and whatnot so I think that I’m physically ready – but mentally I’m ready for this test.

Question: Given that this is your first Nationwide Series start, do you feel there is a pressure to succeed right off the bat or are you using this race more to get your bearings with this type of stock car?

I think you always have the pressure of coming out of the box and impressing people. That’s just your competitive spirit, drive, and working instinct. You want to be the best of anybody on their first start ever. But realistically, I know that I’m in a car that can go out and win in a race. Now, it being my first race ever I think that’d be pretty tough to go win but you know, that’s the goal of course – you can’t aim any higher than first. That’s where I’m keeping it and we’re going to shoot for that.

Question: On your Twitter account you’ve stated that you were watching Nationwide Series footage of Kevin Harvick at Bristol last year. What do you think you have learned from watching that footage?

Restarts I thought were a big thing and long runs to see what he did line-wise and how far the car could go before the tires fell off. I was trying to listen to where he was lifting and getting back onto the gas. It’s tough just watching without the feel of it all, I don’t know what he was feeling and I couldn’t hear his radio communications. Just to have access to footage like that was pretty nice to be able to watch somebody who has ran so many laps around there.

Question: What are you looking to take away from your very first Nationwide Series start? 

A smile and a car in one piece. No, but really, experience and laps. I need to get as many laps as I can and race around as many good cars as I can. I want this to be a test as well as a huge learning experience for me to take in to my next race. I think going into it with an open mind and living in the moment and thanking those who helped got me here is going to be key and to stay positive through the whole ride.

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Catch Conley in action this Saturday in the Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 that will air live on ESPN2 starting at 1:30p.m EST. The PittLite 125 will air on March 22nd on FOX Sports 1 at 11:30a.m EST.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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