Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cale Conley holds his own in Nationwide Series debut at Bristol

Thunder Valley
Credit: Katy Lindamood
Cale Conley is a name unfamiliar to most race fans. The young man who hails from Vienna, WV has made several starts in the K&N Series, but on Saturday he made waves in another series. 

Strapping into the Nationwide Series car for the first time, Conley, who was given the opportunity to drive the No. 33 at Richard Childress Racing, told his Twitter followers, “Today is the day I've wanted my whole life. My dream is within reach. Need to thank the man above for this opportunity. #NASCAR #Nationwide

Conley became the 37th driver in series history to make his debut at Bristol.

Under NASCAR’s new procedure, the top 12 teams following the first round of qualifying (only two rounds at tracks less than 1.25 miles) enter into a knockout round. Conley had the 11th fastest time during the first round and joined Larson, Busch, Kenseth, Scott, Blaney, Harvick, Smith, J. Buescher, T. Dillon, Bliss and Kwasniewski for a chance at the pole.

Ultimately Conley had the slowest time of the top 12, earning a spot in the sixth row alongside rookie Kwasniewski, who spun out during the knockout round.

Given how fickle Bristol can be, Conley held his own, staying within the top 15 for the entirety of the race. Matt Kenseth’s dominant performance put most of the field, including the No. 33, a lap down early in the race. Under the third caution, crew chief Nick Harrison advised his driver to stay out and take the wave around to get back on the lead lap, where he held the 11th spot through the Lap 200 mark.

Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch put Conley down a lap once again, but a late caution for the spinning Ryan Reed put him back on the lead lap after earning the Lucky Dog. Conley would ultimately go on to finish 11th in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.

Kyle Busch earned his third straight victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and his second win of the season in the Nationwide Series. Kyle Larson, who started on the pole, came home second.

Final running order for the 32nd Annual Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes:
  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Larson
  3. Harvick
  4. Blaney
  5. Kenseth
  6. Ty Dillon
  7. Gaughan
  8. Bayne
  9. Elliott
  10. Smith
  11. Conley
  12. Cassill
  13. James Buescher
  14. Scott
  15. Kwasniewski
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Sadler
  18. Clements
  19. Nemechek
  20. Sieg
  21. Hill
  22. Kimmel
  23. Dick
  24. Armstrong
  25. Wallace
  26. Bliss
  27. McClure
  28. Cope
  29. Gase
  30. Wise
  31. Reed
  32. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  33. Garcia Jr.
  34. Lepage
  35. Admiraal
  36. Berryhill
  37. Carter
  38. Long
  39. Dibenedetto
  40. Koch

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