BRISTOL, Tenn. -ESPN announcer Allen Bestwick couldn't have said it any better: "It was a sensational start for Cale Conley.''
Making his debut in NASCAR's Nationwide Series, Conley came within one spot of earning a top 10 finish when he placed 11th in the Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Conley, who qualified 12th for the event, ran a consistent race, staying in the range of 10th to 13th place throughout the 300-lap race and finishing 11th.
Photos courtesy Tim Parks
Cale Conley, a native of Vienna, sits in his Nationwide Series car at Bristol Motor Speedway. Conley finished 11th in the Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 Saturday. He was one of only 12 drivers on the lead lap when Kyle Busch crossed the finish line to win the race.
Cale Conley, left, in the No. 33 Okuma Chevy Camaro, tries to squeeze between the No. 28 driven by Mike Wallace and Chris Buescher in the No. 60 during the closing laps of the Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
He was one of just 12 cars on the lead lap when winner Kyle Busch crossed the finish line.
"Today is the day I've wanted my whole life,'' Conley said before the race on his Twitter account. "My dream is within reach. Need to thank the man above for this opportunity.''
The opportunity came as a result of Conley's recent signing with Richard Childress Racing. Conley is one of three drivers who will 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 couldn't have gone any better for the 21-year-old Conley, who maintained his position at the start and never lost sight of it. When the race was over, he was interviewed by legendary ESPN racing announcer Dr. Jerry Punch.
The developmental driver for Richard Childress Racing earned $26,725 for his finish.
It was the 16th win at Bristol Motor Speedway for Busch, who has won more at Bristol than any other NASCAR driver has won at any other track. Busch held off another Kyle -rookie Kyle Larson -after a late restart to beat him to the finish line and take the checkered flag. Larson started the race on the pole after having the fastest qualifying time.
Busch and his teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing -Matt Kenseth -led for a combined 298 of the 300 laps.
Harvick placed third with Ryan Blaney and Kenseth rounding out the top five.
After running in the Nationwide race, Conley had no time to celebrate his major accomplishment as he was scheduled to participate in the K&N East Series race, which started about an hour after the conclusion of the Nationwide event.
Driving the PMC Chevrolet, Conley 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, which was won by Eddie MacDonald.