Salina Highbanks Speedway

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Be Sure To Stay Saturday, July 13th for the Fireworks!!!!!

Be Sure To Stay Saturday, July 13th for the Fireworks!!!!!

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Saturday, June 15, 2024 Kids Night

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Carl Conley Carries His Father’s Memory to Victory Lane at Salina Highbanks
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8/17/2018

8/17/2018

Salina Highbanks Speedway


Carl Conley Carries His Father’s Memory to Victory Lane at Salina Highbanks

BY TRAVIS BARRETT HOMETRACKS.NASCAR.COM AUGUST 17, 2018

PRYOR CREEK, Okla. — If there was something Carl Conley grew to love, it was the weekly Monday night film session.

Each weekend for years, his mother would dutifully record the races Conley competed in. On Monday night, the family would gather and watch those races — marking different lines around the race track, noticing what other successful drivers were doing to get through traffic and pointing out Conley’s own errors behind the wheel.

Three years ago, the film sessions ended. Conley’s father passed away midseason in 2015 from unexpected heart failure at the age of 66, leaving the now 45-year-old from Porter, Okla., scrambling just to get through the season and maintain his grip on the B-Modified point lead at Salina Highbanks Speedway — a banked, .375-mile dirt track.

“We won the week before Dad passed away,” Conley said. “That week we had to deal with his passing, and then we went back and won again the following week.”

From there, nothing went right and Conley’s grip on the division weakened, week by week. A broken fuel pump here, a drive line gone wrong there. Contact with another car in a heat race.

Conley ended up third in points, but that disappointment paled in comparison to the hurt of losing his father, C.W., the driving force behind the family-owned race team.

“Yeah, you think about whether you want to continue to (race) without him. He’d been there the whole time,” said Conley, who has been racing since 1998. “Racing was everything to him. He talked racing to guys daily. He was always reading articles, trying to find the edge we might need to win the next race. He didn’t like to lose. He was very competitive.”

Competitive — and still there when Conley broke a nearly three-year winless stretch at Salina in May. When Conley’s B-Modified rolled into Victory Lane at the track, C.W. was with him for his first win since that 2015 season.

In more ways than one.

Conley took an overflow tank off the radiator of the Factory Stock — the first car he and his father built together — and fashioned it into part of his Modified. It’s where C.W.’s ashes rest now.

“It meant quite a bit to win that one,” Conley said. “We showed could still do it. With all the hard work we’d put into it, even doing it by myself now without Dad’s help, it meant a lot. This B-Mod class, I think in 12 races we’ve had seven different winners this year. That’s how competitive the class is.”

Competition was something C.W. never shied away from, and it’s something that Carl himself embraces, too. He’s heard stories of other drivers taking their cars to different tracks and winning at a much more proficient clip, but he’s quick to point out that those same drivers can’t get a sniff of the front of the field at Salinas.

You don’t win eight career championships and 130 races by avoiding competition.

“I’ve got a buddy that tells the story about the time we were coming back from (Riverside International Speedway) up at the West edge of Arkansas — finished second that night — and dad was telling me if we got rid of the hiccup in the middle of the corner, we’d might have won that race,” Conley said. “I think I only lost that race by half a car-length.
“He was everything to this.”
Conley doesn’t race as much as he used to. In part, it’s because his father is no longer with him. But it’s also because he has his own 16-year-old son, Ryan, and Ryan’s high school football career is just starting to take off.

Where his father was consumed by racing, time has given Carl Conley perspective. He understands a tight father-son bond can be forged in places other than at a race track. Ryan was being groomed to race himself, but when his grandfather passed away, he turned his focus to football and baseball instead. And Ryan’s love of football is something Conley is nurturing.

“I’m not going to say that I’m as competitive as (my father) was on that deal,” Conley said. “I’ve seen it just a little bit different. I’ve got a boy who just turned 16, and I helped coach his Little League and that kind of stuff. My dad didn’t do that. Friday and Saturday nights he was at the race track. He ate and slept racing.”

Even with so many titles in so many divisions already on his dirt racing resume, including one at Salina in 2000, there’s still something Conley is chasing at the race track.

It was one of the last things C.W. wanted for his son.

“One of the last things my dad told me was that he wanted another championship,” Conley said. “So, I’m still working hard to get that one more. If I get that one more, I may step back and let my son take the wheel from there.”


Submitted By: Elizabeth Davis

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