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May 15, 2014

Going the Distance With Cale Conley

When you have a six-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, lose control of the car at Talladega of all places, I think that's a testament to how hard these cars are to drive and that's great.

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Each week, Popular Speed will ask a different NASCAR personality a handful of questions about their career, lifestyle or an off-beat personality trait. Next up: Richard Childress Racing Nationwide Series driver, Cale Conley, who will make this third start of the season on Sunday at Iowa.

Popular Speed:
Do you still feel the novelty and aura of getting to the race track each week or has it become a job?

Cale Conley:
At first, I’m still amazed at these tracks and I’m in total fan mode, wanting to soak it all in. I don’t get into job mode until I put on the firesuit. It’s a good mix of both and to see my name on a Nationwide Series car and to race it on all these tracks I grew up watching on TV is pretty awesome.

PS:
What are some of your earliest memories that led you towards this path?

CC:
My dad raced in ASA (American Speed Association) when I was little and just gained a passion for it — loved the sights and sounds. I’ve always had the matchbox cars of all my favorite drivers so you could say that I’ve had a passion from day one. I’ve just stuck with it and I’m grateful for all the opportunities that a guy like me has been given.

PS:
Who was your childhood hero?

CC:
Mark Martin for sure. Dad took me to the Coca-Cola 600 one year and Mark was driving the Valvoline car with the check mark and the orange wheels. I’ve stuck with Mark Martin from that point up until he retired. But beyond that, Mark is my favorite driver but I would have to say that Ayrton Senna is my life hero. I’ve spent the past few years learning about his personality and drive and I respect that a great deal.

PS:
Would you have rather started your career 20 years ago or 20 years from now?

CC:
That’s hard to say because I don’t want to devalue what is going on the sport right now but if I had to answer I would say that it would have been cool to race 20 years ago against the guys that were good back then. The racing was pretty hard-nosed too.

And I really think that 20 years from now, people are going to look back at the racing today and say how great it is. Anytime you can make the cars harder to drive, I think the racing really benefits the sport. When you have a six-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, lose control of the car at Talladega of all places, I think that’s a testament to how hard these cars are to drive and that’s great.

PS:
Do you have a bucket list track that you haven’t been able to race on yet?

CC:
Assuming that I make it to Cup and I get to go to all the tracks on that schedule, I would have to say Indianapolis for the Indy 500. I think what Kurt is doing right now, doing the double, is something that every NASCAR driver should try to accomplish at least once in their career. To answer that question, I like to think of places with a historical perspective.

PS:
Which driver, from another discipline, would you love to race against in the NASCAR Nationwide Series?

CC:
Lewis Hamilton. You look at what Kimi (Raikkonen) was able to do when he raced at Charlotte, he was competitive so any of those guys from Europe, I would love to race against this weekend at Iowa for example in the Nationwide Series.

PS:
What is your favorite paint scheme in the history of the sport?

CC:
Definitely the Mark Martin check car — that Ford Taurus. That’s the car that got me into this deal.

PS:
  What is one make-or-break moment that has defined your career?

CC:
 I’d say my Nationwide Series debut at Bristol, making it into the final round and finishing 11th and on the lead lap. Before the Nationwide Series, there were a couple of good races that stand out that got my name out there.

The one that really stands out is this one USAC midget race at Anderson, Ind. We qualified deep in the field but worked myself up to second with 10 laps to go behind Darren Hagen and then the motor let go. We finished third with a dying motor but finishing passing Bobby East and Shane Hmiel on my way to the front was quite the accomplishment.

To Read Matt Weaver's article as it appears on PopularSpeed.com CLICK HERE.

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