Conley holds his own at Darlington Raceway

By Eddie Thomas

Special to The Times

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Nationwide Series rookie Cale Conley holds his own at the “Lady in Black” Darlington Raceway Friday night.

The Vienna, W.Va., native qualified his Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro in the 11th spot. Making his second start in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, Conley was running in the the top 20 most of the night in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200.

Conley was running 14th late in the race, when he spunout on the front stretch and hit the inside retaining wall causing severe damage to the front of his Okuma sponsored race car.

After spending 11 laps in the pits to make repairs, he was back out on the track to record a 32nd place finish. Conley said, “it was probably the toughest, most demanding racetrack he has ever raced at in his career. It took me all of practice just to get comfortable holding it wide open next to the wall to be fast.

“We qualified well, but I wasn’t happy with our race speed and the overall balance of the race car during the early part of the race. We seemed to really struggle until we made a few adjustments on a couple pit stops. When I finally thought we had something to race we got caught up in an accident.

“Frustrating that we we couldn’t try to race it out but that’s racing and well make up for it at Richmond.”

Conley was running for the first time at Darlington, NASCAR’s oldest speedway, the track that has lends itself to causing damage to many-a-racecars.

Conley reported on his Facebook account, that he will be back on the race track for RCR on Friday, April 25 in the TOYOTACARE 250 at Richmond International Raceway.

Conley’s first outing in the Nationwide Series earned him a top 10 finish in the Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Conley qualified 12th for the event, ran a consistent race, staying in the range of top 15 throughout the 300-lap race and finishing 11th.

He was one of just 12 cars that finished on the lead lap.

Conley stated on his Twitter account before the race at Bristol, “Today is the day I’ve wanted my whole life. My dream is within reach. Need to thank the man above for this opportunity.”

The opportunity to drive in the Nationwide Series came with the signing with at Richard Childress Racing.

Conley is one of three drivers who that share the black and blue No. 33 car during the season. Paul Menard is scheduled to be the main driver for the car with Conley and Matt Crafton taking the wheel when they are assigned.

Things could have gone better for the 21-year-old Conley, but he showed his ability to drive on one of the most difficult track in the series. When Conley was watching his crew make repairs on his car, he was interviewed by legendary ESPN racing announcer Dr. Jerry Punch.

The developmental driver for RCR earned $17,395 for his finish.

Conley participated in the K&N East Series race at Bristol, driving the PMC Chevrolet, he managed to complete just 52 of the 132 laps in the race, placing him 30th among the 35 drivers who participated. He had qualified fourth for the event.