PEEBLES, Ohio — At the beginning of Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek, Cale Conley and the No. 3c Ravici Racing team weren’t high on most people’s lists of contenders for the mini-series title.
Fast-forward to the second half of Speedweek, however, and Conley has placed himself firmly in the Speedweek conversation thanks to an impeccable run of consistency through the first five nights.
Conley has placed fifth, eighth, fifth, second and fourth during the first five events of Ohio Sprint Speedweek, a run that has him 16 points behind point leader Aaron Reutzel in the race for the $4,000 champion’s share.
It’s a showing of strength that Conley — a former up-and-comer in the NASCAR world — admitted he didn’t expect, considering he still feels like he’s getting his feet under himself again when it comes to sprint car racing.
“NASCAR is most everybody’s dream, but it’s really tough to break through and even harder to stay there, with it taking so much funding,” noted Conley, who competed in NASCAR from 2011 to ’15 in both the K&N Pro Series East and Xfinity Series before returning to dirt racing. “I was lucky to have a shot at it and get to run some races in NASCAR land, but I’m happy to be back in a sprint car and racing weekly.
“I ran sprint cars when I was 16 or 17, back around 2009 and ’10, and then we sold out everything that we had and went down and bought a K&N car and tried our hand at that. I hadn’t been back in a sprint car for six or seven years until a couple seasons ago,” Conley added. “I got back in one for a few races and then ran some more the next year … and a couple seasons later, here we are. We’ve gotten quicker, that’s for sure, but we didn’t expect to be where we are in Speedweek points. It has been pretty cool.”
In fact, Conley’s original schedule didn’t call for him to compete in round five of Speedweek on Wednesday night at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex, as he was originally planning to head to Atomic Speedway in Waverly, Ohio, for a sprint car program at that three-eighths-mile facility.
However, when the Atomic show was canceled and Conley found himself second in Speedweek points, the team added Brushcreek to its calendar.
“We knew the Atomic show had been scrubbed and we wanted to race, so we figured why not, right?” Conley said. “We’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves, even though we’re second in points. We’ve had some good rounds; now we’re just going to try to keep having fun. We’re exceeding our expectations. You want to go win and everything like that, but man, this is a tough crowd.
“If we can just put ourselves in position to keep making the races and put ourselves in the top 10 and, hopefully, top five, that’s what gives you those opportunities to maybe run inside the top three and fight for wins,” Conley noted. “If we just keep that attitude going, I think that we’ll end this deal in the top five in points, at the very least.”
Conley’s brightest moment of the week came Monday night at Wayne County Speedway, when he led the first 27 laps of the 30-lapper — appearing to be well on his way to his first All Star victory after leading by as much as two seconds.
However, failing brakes late in the race and a rapidly deflating right-rear tire spelled doom to Conley’s victory hopes, and he was overhauled by Cap Henry on lap 28.
Conley finished second but admitted he could see the possibility of a victory in front of him.
“I lost brakes with six or seven laps to go; just kind of roasted them off. I think part of that was just building too much heat in them to where I just kind of wore the pads out, but it was also so dusty. I couldn’t even see on (corner) entry, so I was using the brakes a little more than I normally would,” Conley explained. “That ended up hurting. And then when we came in, our right rear was down at two pounds of air … and I was like, ‘no wonder we were getting so tight at the end,’ because I just could not put up a battle for the lead. I was kind of hanging on.
“I was tight because of the tire, and with no brakes, I couldn’t get the car to turn. Just a bad combo there,” he continued. “I did kind of feel like I was a sitting duck, but it is what it is. I thought we could get one, though. We definitely had a car capable of it.”
With that knowledge, Conley is eager to embark on the final few nights of Speedweek, in hopes of cracking the code to victory lane with the All Star Circuit of Champions.
“When you’re in a position like that and nothing goes wrong, it’s nice to know that as a team, you can crank off those wins. It wasn’t meant to be Monday night, but we’ve got a really fast race car, so that feels good,” said Conley. “The talent level that’s out there … I’m glad to be able to get elbows up with some of these guys. It’s a lot of fun right now.
“And who knows? Maybe we still will be able to steal a Speedweek title out of all this. We just have to stay in the hunt.”
Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek continues Thursday night at the half-mile Muskingum County Speedway in Dresden, Ohio.
SPEED SPORT’s Ohio Sprint Speedweek coverage is presented by Cometic Gasket Inc., a leading worldwide supplier of gaskets and engine sealing solutions for the automotive performance, powersports, original equipment and remanufactured engine industries. No matter what you ride, Cometic Gasket can seal your machine so you can focus on the finish line.
Since 1989, Cometic has been living, breathing, and eating powersports. As a proud supporters of GNCC, AMA, NASCAR, and other race-teams across the country, Cometic understands what it takes to put everything on the line with one goal in mind. When you earn your living racing at the highest level against the best in the country, engine failures simply aren’t an option. Champions across the world continue to use Cometic Gasket for their engine-sealing solutions. Whether they’re driving a Gen-6 stock car or riding a top fuel motorcycle, Cometic Gaskets are the reliable source in extreme conditions.
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