Shifting into the next gear

NASCAR’s youth movement has a solid crop running in the Nationwide Series this year. NASCAR needs these drivers who will slowly but surely take over the ranks of the Sprint Cup Series.

A few of them are earning their worth in the second tier series, but others are competing in the Camping World Truck Series and K&N Series in a bid to be the next big star.

It didn’t help these young, talented drivers when the economic downturn drastically cut available sponsorship dollars and eliminated many teams’ driver development programs.

Richard Childress Racing is one organization that has provided opportunities for advancement in stock car racing.

Vienna’s Cale Conley has endured through the ups and downs this year in the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro sponsored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“The team has shown its ability to compete on the large tracks this year, but misfortune has been our biggest nemesis,” Conley said. “For now, we just have to do our job and perform our best in the coming races.”

Conley’s talent has shined on the high-banks at Bristol Motor Speedway this season with an 11th place finish earlier this year. “Our team is back at Bristol this month where I feel comfortable in the car and maintain lots of speed.”

He has five more shots in the RCR entry to pull off positive finishes and hopefully put the car into victory lane. Conley will run on Sept. 5 at Richmond International Raceway, Sept. 20 at Kentucky Motor Speedway, Sept. 27 at Dover International Speedway and his final race will be Oct. 10 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Another rookie in NASCAR’s second tier series this year is Chad Boat. Boat is the son of famous driver Billy Boat. Chad ran in the ARCA Series in 2013 with one top 10 finish. Also, he won the feature at the Chili Bowl Nationals in a Midget car.

Boat can be seen behind the wheel of the No. 84 Chevrolet Camaro in the Nationwide Series. His team has competed in seven races this year and hopes to run more if it gets the proper amount of funding.

“Our team has shown its ability in the few shots on the track, but every small team needs sponsorship money to be out there each week,” Boat said.

Conley and Boat are just two of NASCAR’s young guns looking for their shot to run in the premier series, but team owners are more comfortable with veteran drivers behind the wheel. Corporate sponsors need to step up funding to support these young talented drivers.

* Former NASCAR driver Mark Martin is returning to Roush Fenway Racing in 2015, where he excelled behind the wheel for nearly 20 years – this time as the team’s driver development coach. Martin was the first driver hired by Jack Roush when he founded his operation in 1988. The two went on to become one of the most successful duos in sports history, accumulating 83 NASCAR wins and four Sprint Cup Series runner-up finishes.

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com