Crash Costly for Conley
DOVER, Del. – Nationwide Series rookie driver and Vienna native Cale Conley is dealing with highs and lows this season.
Conley qualified his No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro 18th for the Buckle Up 200 Presented By Click It or Ticket race Saturday. Afterward, he said, “I think we have a little confidence going into the race after a solid practice Friday.”
“We just have to do our job and have a clean race to give ourself a shot at a solid finish at the end.”
Conley was running in the top 20 through most of Saturday afternoon’s race until issues started to develop in the pits and track to put him two laps down. “We were chipping away spots from the back of the field,” he said.
Conley was driving a consistant race with 54 laps remaining. “I was trying to avoid the incident in turn 4 and my inexperience with the car caused me to spin out and hit the retaining wall,” he explained.
His car was too badly-damaged to repair and he wound up finishing 31st. But it didn’t dampen Conley’s enthusiasm. “I am living the dream driving for Richard Childress Racing and teaming up with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as our race sponsor,” he said.
Meamwhile, Kyle Busch had heard the critics who said he was too good, too dominant, too loaded with the best equipment to keep dropping down levels and routinely romping his way to victories.
His response from Victory Lane Saturday was too bad.
Busch raced to his second victory of the weekend at Dover, taking the checkered flag to set himself up for a tripleheader sweep.
“I do it for the pure love of the sport and just wanting to be out there,” Busch said. “I’ll keep doing it as long as we can do it.”
Busch followed his dominant win Friday night in the Truck Series with another stellar run in Nationwide Saturday, leading 124 of 200 laps for his 66th career victory in NASCAR’s second-tier series. He has 134 wins spread over NASCAR’s three major series, though he has yet to win a Cup championship or marquee races such as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 or All-Star race.
“I’ve got a 134 of ’em now and none of them mean nothing,” Busch said. “Hopefully, someday, the big ones come.”
Busch had a three-race sweep in 2010 at Bristol, which he called the highlight of his career. He’ll start second behind pole-winner Brad Keselowski on Sunday in the 400-mile Sprint Cup race. He has one Cup victory this season.
“We unloaded fast and I think we’ll be OK tomorrow,” Busch said.
Conley will be back in the No. 33 RCR Chevy Camaro on July 19 in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. “I really need to be in the car every weekend to unload in practice with speed, consistency and confidence,” he said.
“I gain a lot after the race starts to play out and I can get in a good competitive pace. We need to get that started earlier in the weekend rather 50 than laps into the race. As long as we keep impressing and showing speed, we will get there.”
Former Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne was second Saturday. Bayne finished strong a week after he reached a deal to race fulltime next season for Roush Fenway Racing. Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five. Series points leader Regan Smith was 10th.
Logano, the pole winner, had won the last four Nationwide races at Dover and would have tied a Nationwide record for consecutive wins at the same track with a victory.
“All good things must come to an end and we’ll give it another shot in the fall,” Logano said. “Maybe a couple of years later, we’ll be sitting here going for five again.”
But Saturdays’s race belonged to Busch. The only driver to sweep a weekend, Busch has been in this position before, but is just 1 for 8 in Cup races after winning the first two.
“It seems like the last one is always the hardest one,” he said. “That’s due to just the competition.”
Busch was annoyed after rough practice and qualifying sessions left him feeling as if he didn’t have the car to win. Once the green flag dropped, Busch was behind the wheel of a the No. 54 Toyota he called “awesome.”
“I didn’t think it was, but it was,” he said. “I never got the feel I was looking for during practice.”
Busch, who won for the third time this season, found it when it mattered on the mile concrete track.
His brother, Kurt, failed last weekend in his attempt to complete The Double – drive all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Kyle Busch hoped he could complete his Triple, though the Cup race is the traditional roadblock in his date with racing history.
Busch also was the first driver to win the Truck and Nationwide race at Dover on the same weekend.
Busch and Brad Keselowski own Truck teams, and NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. owns a Nationwide team.
And with sponsorship key to funding those operations, corporations often agree to sponsorship deals with the guarantee that the driver/owners will get behind the wheel in a handful of races or more.
Tracks, television-rights holders and NASCAR also all benefit from the draw of racing’s top drivers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story