Cale Conley has never raced at Bristol Motor Speedway, so he doesn't have any experience to draw upon as NASCAR's K&N East Series begins this weekend in Bristol, Tenn.
But at the same time, the native of Vienna has heard enough racing speak that he has a fairly good idea what awaits him at a track known as the world's fastest half mile.
"A lot of drivers have explained it as racing fighter jets in a gymnasium," Conley said.
At 19 years old, Conley enters his second season with the K&N East Series. He now calls Greensboro, N.C., home where he shares residence with veteran NASCAR crew chief David Hyder.
"I still miss West Virginia and I definitely miss being with family," Conley said. "But what makes it easier is working hard every day. We get up at 5:30 in the morning then make the hour drive to the shop. We're there until 7 at night and that wears on you."
The K&N East Series East Series is a regional stock car racing series owned and operated by NASCAR. Many of the drivers on the circuit are looking to gain experience in hopes of moving up to one of the major NASCAR series.
Some familiar names who have competed at this level include the Truex brothers (Martin and Ryan), Joey Logano and Ricky Craven.
Sons of former NASCAR drivers, such as Corey LaJoie and Chase Elliott are also trying to prove themselves.
"One of my buddies is Chad Boat - his father (Billy Boat) one time sat on the pole for the Indianapolis 500," Conley said. "There is a lot of family racing history in this series and it is as competitive as it can be."
Conley is affiliated with the No. 47 Sprint Cup team JTG Daugherty Racing and their driver - 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte. His cars are built and maintained out of the JTG Daugherty race shop in Harrisburg, N.C.
"The main thing working with David Hyder is the focus and detail," Conley said. "He really perfects what he is doing."
Several weeks ago, Conley gained some confidence during a practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway. At least he won't be heading into the unknown when the Widow Wax 125 takes place Saturday following the conclusion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Over 100,000 race fans are expected to attend the three-day event.
"I just have to take a step back and realize that I am almost still a rookie at this," Conley said. "But in my own mind, I honestly will be disappointed if I don't finish in the top 5. In my mind, it's all or nothing."
Conley not only plans to race all 14 events on the K&N East Series schedule, but compete in a few West Series events as well. For the time being as he departs for Bristol this morning, his total focus is on his first race of the season.
"Being able to race there is a dream come true," Conley said. "There's not a better place to start the season."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org