Conley has been driving race cars since he strapped into a mini wedge for the first time at age five. Since then, the 26 year old wheelman has driven his way into the NASCAR ranks, but is currently driving a Sprint Car full time with the Tony Stewart owned All-Star Circuit of Champions.
Racing has been part of Cale’s life for as long as he can remember. His dad drove ASA Asphalt Stock Cars for many years, while his uncle raced dirt Late Models. Having a family so involved with racing, it was only a matter of time before Cale started a racing career of his own.Cale spent roughly five years in the Mini Wedge division before moving up to asphalt Quarter Midgets. Once he hit age 15, Cale was eager to compete at a higher level, so he raced Kenyon Midgets for a year before he could race a Sprint Car at age 16. Over the next three years, Cale drove winged and non-winged Sprint Cars along with USAC Midgets until he and his family decided to take a leap of faith, sell their Sprint Car equipment, and invested in their own NASCAR K&N series team.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series is a regional stock car series owned and operated by NASCAR. The series tours all the way up and down the East Coast. The technology and cultural gap between Dirt Track Racing and asphalt Stock Car Racing in the NASCAR world proved to be a slight challenge for Cale during his first year with the series. But it became apparent the following year that Conley was quick to put the lessons he learned to good use, landing a few pole (fastest qualifier) awards and, after 14 starts with the series, he took the checkered flag on his first K&N Series race at Columbus Motor Speedway in Ohio. During his time in the K&N Series, Cale raced with some NASCAR names you may be familiar with: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, and Ryan Blaney.After his promising year with the K&N Series, Conley (now 21 years old) was recruited to drive a part time schedule for RCR (Richard Childress Racing) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. “I lived my dream. That was the ultimate goal for me personally.”, said Cale. “We raced for RCR with a part time schedule and raced with Tri-Star after that, attempting a full-time schedule, but we didn’t complete it due to lack of funding. Now, here we are, we’re out of NASCAR temporarily.”
Chasing dreams comes at a cost. “Nowadays, you’re really responsible for bringing your own funding and sponsorships to the table, and if you don’t have the funding or sponsorship, you’re out of luck- you don’t get to play in that world. It’s really a pay to play scenario now and its making it really tough for a lot of guys to get in and race.” Cale said, “At the end of those 10 races, your funding’s gone, and unless you can regenerate that, you’re not going to get those same races next year. We weren’t able to do that, so we were out of that ride.”At the end of 2016, Cale found himself out of the NASCAR world and looking to race anything. So, he called Sprint Car owner, John Shewbrooks. Shewbrooks decided to bring Cale on board for a couple of the last races of the season. “During that time, I saw Dave Jessup (Sprint Car owner from Dayton, Ohio) at one of the races, and he said, ‘call me this off-season and maybe we can get something together – I always wanted you to drive for me back when you were 16-17, maybe we can make something work now.'” Since Cale wasn’t sure what Shewbrooks had in store for the following season, he jumped on the opportunity with Jessup and thus a promising new adventure began.
We were having so much fun and we won a few races. Then, over the off-season, we decided – what the heck, let’s just go run the All-Stars circuit.
“It worked out perfect because John Shewbrooks ended up racing with another driver, Brandon Wimmer, the next year and Dave ended up putting a deal together to where we could race with him.”, Cale said. At the time of the initial agreement, Conley and Jessup were only planning on running around 20-24 races in 2017, but ended up running closer to 40! “We were having so much fun and we won a few races. Then, over the off-season, we decided – what the heck, let’s just go run the All-Stars circuit.”Owned by NASCAR veteran, Tony Stewart, the All-Star Circuit of Champions is one of the most competitive series’ in the world. It is the oldest sprint car series in the country by eight years to it’s rival, the World of Outlaws. The All-Star circuit takes drivers and teams all over the country from New York, to Florida, and way out west to Wisconsin. But, it’s most famous week of racing takes place in Ohio: Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Ohio Sprint Speedweek puts drivers and teams through a grueling nine races in nine days at tracks spanning all corners of the state.
“The talent level is extreme with the All-Stars. Everybody that’s in front of me in points has won a World of Outlaw race and has won with the All Stars.”, Cale said. “As a driver you don’t like getting beat, but when you’re getting beat by guys that are truly more experienced than you, you just learn from them. It’s just making me better.” Just HOW extreme is the talent level with the All-Star Circuit of Champions? Alongside Cale, the All-Stars have seen current NASCAR drivers, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, and Christopher Bell, along with NASCAR veterans, Dave Blaney and Tony Stewart, grace their roster this year. “From the start of this season to where I am right now, I have gained so much experience racing against guys who are just very talented sprint car drivers. So I’m only getting better and I think that we’re knocking on the door of our first All-Star win.”Life on the road as a race car driver isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of sacrifices that are made in order to commit to a series that takes you so far away from home for the majority of race season. “For me, its always been my dream, so all the sacrifices, the traveling, the being away from home and my family, it makes it worth it when you have one good night. One good night kinda washes out the bad nights.” Even though Cale may be traveling and away from this blood-related family, the dirt track world also serves as it’s own family on the road.
We’re really fortunate to be able to do what we do and you’ve gotta go to bed with a smile on your face and that’s one thing we are good about, I think, is kinda keeping it in perspective.
“I love the team atmosphere. We make the most fun of it as we can. Even on our worst nights, we’ve got so much in life to be thankful for. When you have a bad night of racing -if you really stop and think about it- it can always be so much worse. We’re really fortunate to be able to do what we do and you’ve gotta go to bed with a smile on your face and that’s one thing we are good about, I think, is kinda keeping it in perspective.” Though Cale’s had his share of tough luck, overall he’s had a fairly good season to date. “We’re 40 races in, halfway through our season and we’ve got three wins already and we’re just livin’ it up and having a great time.”On a typical race day, you can find Cale and team in the pits working on their car and talking with fans. The 7k crew is one of the nicest crews you’ll find. One thing I admire is how Cale engages with the younger fans. He’s always handing out stickers, signing hero cards, and taking photos with the kids. On a few nights this season, after running into some unfortunate bad luck, he and his crew divvied up scrap metal from the car’s wings and handed pieces out to kids for souvenirs. In a grass-roots sport such as dirt track racing, it’s important to get the younger generation involved to keep the sport alive. It’s safe to say Cale is doing his part to do just that.
When it comes to racing and life, it’s obvious Cale is living it to the fullest, full speed ahead, and with little to no regrets. “I’ve never really wanted to have a backup plan because I can put 100% of my focus on making it in racing. I have other passions, I just don’t know which one I would take dead serious if I wasn’t racing.” As exciting as the life of a race car driver is, there’s also been a lot of excitement in Cale’s personal life over the last year! He and his Fiancé, Emma Blaney, got engaged back in November of 2017 and are set to marry at the end of July. As if that’s not exciting enough, they just recently found out they’re expecting their first child in January.Though racing isn’t for everyone, it’s one of those things where you should at least go experience it once before you decide weather or not you like the sport. “When it comes to NASCAR, the sounds, the smell, the speed- that’s what drew me to it. It’s just an amazing weekend if you go to a NASCAR race, especially if you go to some place like Bristol.” But, with that said, anyone who’s ever been to a Sprint Car race will tell you that there’s nothing quite like watching this class of car. “With Sprint Cars not having fenders or a stock car body, you can see the tires as the driver steers it.”, Cale said. “The raw speed of a sprint car is amazing. For those of you thinking about going to a Sprint Car show for the first time, Cale says to, “get ready to have your mind blown because these things are crazy!”
Drive. Determination. Passion. If you talk with Cale, its easy to see that he has all three. And if you’ve been able to keep up with his All-Star season this year, you’d have to believe he’s right on the verge on taking the checkered flag on his first All-Star Circuit of Champions win.