- Mark Ashenfelter, NASCAR
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Cale Gale has the opportunity of a lifetime. Now he just hopes to capitalize on it the next two weekends.
Gale has made two Busch Series starts, both at Nashville, in Kevin Harvick Inc.'s No. 33 Chevrolet. With the Busch Series on its own the next two weekends, he'll also be in the car Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway and on June 23 at The Milwaukee Mile.
Cale has been impressive both on and off the track this year. He has dedicated himself to making the most of his opportunity at KHI.
All told, Gale will make seven Busch starts in addition to running five Craftsman Truck Series races and four ARCA events with the team. So while he's got 16 races to try to prove himself, Gale says the time is now.
"Kevin and DeLana [Harvick] and I haven't really sat down and talked about what next year is all about," Gale said last week at Nashville. "I honestly think it's going to be what I do in these next three races. I think they are the most important so far in my professional driving career because they'll reflect on what I do next season.
"I think every lap is important. Finishing races and completing all the laps is the main thing and getting out there and getting experience."
Gale was on pace to complete all the laps at Nashville until a cut tire led to an unscheduled pit stop and a 26th-place finish. Back in April, engine failure left him 27th at the track.
The 22-year-old from Mobile, Ala., could complain about his luck, but is happier to focus on the opportunities he's received the past two seasons. While racing late models, he competed with Eddie Mercer, who counts James Finch among his close friends.
Finch owns Phoenix Racing, which fields Busch Series cars for Mike Wallace and J.J. Yeley this season. Finch hired Gale to build shocks for his teams and last year put him behind the wheel for three Busch Series races and several ARCA events.
Gale went out and won the ARCA race at Gateway in July and by the end of the year he'd signed a development deal with KHI.
"It was a tough decision for me to leave there, but it was a career opportunity for me," Gale said of severing ties with Phoenix Racing. "At this point, I couldn't turn it down. Hopefully later on down the road they'll see where I was coming from. After a few championships and a few wins, I think that James and Eddie both will see that I'm a true racer and a true champion."
And he'll always have that ARCA win with the team to remember.
"That was like a dream come true," Gale said. "I told my mom and my girlfriend the night before the race that I had a shot at winning it. Something told me. When I get that feeling, it's like nothing can stop you."
Gale, named after three-time Cup champion Cale Yarborough, loves working on the cars almost as much as driving them. He still builds shocks at KHI and his efforts are recognized.
"Cale has been impressive both on and off the track this year. He has dedicated himself to making the most of his opportunity at KHI," DeLana Harvick said. "I look forward to this stretch of the season when Cale gets to be behind the wheel for several consecutive weeks."
But not nearly as much as Gale does, that's for sure. He's working with the engineers when he's not working on shocks, trying to learn every aspect of the sport possible.
His goal is to make it as a racer, but if that doesn't pan out, he'd pursue avenues that could lead to a role as a car chief and, eventually, a crew chief.
"My dad's taught me a lot of knowledge about race cars and I think it's important when you're driving to know all that," Gale said. "I love racing and love to keep up on everything."
For the next two weeks, he'll be able to focus on his driving.
"I just hope to put down some solid runs the next couple of weeks and keep my name on the map and make the [Harvicks] happy so we can have a good schedule for next year," Gale said.
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN.
4dBob Pockrass and John Oreovicz