Students at Lake Ridge Elementary School were able to learn about life in the fast lane on Wednesday.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Cale Gale and John King made an appearance at the school on behalf of Bristol Motor Speedway. It came exactly one week before the Truck Series returns to BMS for the UNOH 200.
While the kids asked questions ranging from how fast their racing trucks go to if they’ve ever been on fire, the drivers enjoyed sharing their experiences with the group of third- and fourth-graders. The drivers also visited Weber City (Va.) Elementary, the school King attended as a young boy, earlier in the day.
“I can’t remember what I was like when I was that age,” said King, winner of this year’s season-opening race at Daytona. “But the kids love racing, the fast cars. They know Bristol being in the area and they’re real attentive. Before we came here to Lake Ridge, we went to my old elementary school. That was neat to see my old teachers, people who I went to school with, who are now teachers. It’s neat to be able to give them something to take away and talk about.”
The 24-year-old Kingsport driver was joined on stage by Gale, a 27-year-old racer from Alabama who drives the No. 33 Chevrolet for Eddie Sharp Racing.
“It’s a lot of fun to come out here and talk to the kids,” said Gale, currently 12th in the Truck Series points. “We’re able talk to them about wearing their helmets when they’re riding their bicycles, being safe about whatever they do and talking to them about their dreams. Talking to the third and fourth graders, that’s when they start dreaming about what they want to do.”
Gale’s dream started even earlier than that.
He began racing go-karts at age 4 and a decade later started running stock cars. He racked up over 200 wins before making it to a major NASCAR series.
“My whole life, all I ever wanted to do was drive race cars,” he said. “It’s definitely been a dream come true to be in the situation I’m in.”
It was also a dream come true for King, who started the season with Red Horse Racing before the owners suspended operations on the No. 7 Toyota team due to a lack of sponsorship. Last week, the team announced Parker Kligerman would be driving the truck for the rest of the season.
It leaves King in limbo, without a ride for next Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol.
“This is the toughest race to sit out,” King said. “This is home, the one that really counts. All my friends, family, peers and old teachers, everybody I’ve grown up around, watches this race. It’s definitely a blow not to run Bristol. I look forward to it all year, every year.”
Gale can understand King’s dilemma. He was driving for Kevin Harvick’s Nationwide Series team in 2008 and fresh off winning a pole for the Food City 250 at Bristol when he received the news he was losing the ride.
Without another ride available, he went to work building shocks for other race teams before a chance to finally return to the driver’s seat.
“It’s tough when you’re in that situation,” he said. “We won the pole at Bristol, ran fourth and were competitive against Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series. I felt I proved week in and week out in the right circumstances, I could be competitive. Unfortunately, sponsorships being the way they are, I had to sit out a couple of years.
“I tell John to just hang in there. There were many days I thought I was done. One good thing he has going for him is that he won Daytona. Everything will work out. It may take a little time, but he just has to keep digging.”
King, who was the Truck Series points leader for over a month, is trying to keeping a positive attitude. He continues to beat the bushes to come up with the finances to go back racing full-time.
“You just have to keep your head up. You can’t get down,” King said. “Stuff happens, things come and go, but the problems you have just make you stronger. We just keep working hard, trying to get sponsors and get something going.”
While on hiatus from the Truck Series, King plans to keep busy by racing at the short tracks.
“I’m going to try to run the big Late Model Stock race at Martinsville,” he said. “I also have some dirt races scheduled, some grass roots races, the kind of racing I started with.”
Meanwhile, Gale will run the Truck Series race at Michigan this Saturday before heading back to Bristol. He loves being able to rocket off Bristol’s high banks like he did four years ago, posting a speed of 122.007 mph on his pole-winning run.
“I like everything about Bristol,” Gale said. “It seems to be my kind of place with the banking. It’s fast, a place I hope we can have a good race in our Eddie Sharp Racing Chevrolet. I’ve looked forward to coming to this race all year and I’m glad it’s finally here.”