Conway and Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 Busch Series Team Set To Play Nashville in Key of 'Z' HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (June 6, 2007) -- Back in February, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series star Tony Stewart took center stage as front man for brand new NASCAR...
Conway and Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 Busch Series Team Set To Play Nashville in Key of 'Z'
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (June 6, 2007) -- Back in February, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series star Tony Stewart took center stage as front man for brand new NASCAR Busch Series sponsor Z-Line Designs as it kicked off its 2007 world tour at California Speedway with a powerhouse band of stock car racers known as the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team.
After rocking the house in Southern California, the Z-Line tour passed through Sin City for a glitzy Las Vegas performance on its way to its third stop in Bristol (Tenn.), deep in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains and bluegrass country, followed by a thrilling Friday-night show under the lights in Richmond (Va.). And most recently, the Z-Line tour invaded the hallowed stomping grounds of George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers and learned just how Bad to the Bone the infamous "Monster Mile" can be.
This weekend, the Z-Line Tour and the No. 18 JGR Chevrolet team come to Music City USA for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Busch Series at Nashville (Tenn.) Superpeedway. And for the third time this season and the second time in as many weeks, 28-year-old racer Kevin Conway will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Chevrolet, hoping this time to come away with the Nashville track's signature Gibson guitar as a first-place trophy.
While Conway has taken turns behind the wheel of the Z-Line Designs racing machine with Stewart, JGR development driver Brad Coleman and Nextel Cup regular Denny Hamlin so far this season, his role in the Z-Line Busch Series sponsorship has transcended well beyond the role of driver. He's also the central figure responsible for putting this world tour together. Armed with a marketing degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the versatile driving talent spent the latter part of 2006 selling Z-Line CEO Jim Sexton on the virtues of NASCAR racing. He got Z-Line, a California-based company that is the leader in the ready-to-assemble furniture marketplace, together with the powers that be at Joe Gibbs Racing in the deal of his racing lifetime.
Conway certainly felt like the modern-day racing version of Ruben Kincaid, the manager of the Partridge Family who could be seen bobbing his head backstage. Conway and his partners from Z-Line saw Stewart bring home a near-top-10 finish at California, and then enjoyed a pole at Richmond when Hamlin set quick time in the Z-Line Chevrolet before leading the race's first 20 laps.
Conway's first two chances to drive the Z-Line Chevrolet this season came at a pair of NASCAR's most unforgiving tracks -- Bristol and Dover (Del.). But the veteran of seemingly everything from AMA Motocross, the World Karting Association, USAC Midgets, Late Model Stocks, the American Speed Association, ARCA and NASCAR's West Series took to his seventh and eighth career Busch Series events like a studio musician to three-chord rock songs.
With 10 weeks between his Bristol and Dover performances, Conway is very much looking forward to the chance to slide into the cockpit on back-to-back weekends in an effort to accelerate his learning curve with the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team. Last weekend on the Monster Mile at Dover, Conway lost ground early while fighting an ill-handling condition due a shock absorber issue, but then found himself running laps comparable to the race leaders despite being laps down. A late-race collision with some 32 laps remaining ended Conway's day early, but he and his No. 18 teammates chalked up another valuable lesson in the school of hard knocks and feel they have psychological momentum as they prepare for their Nashville performance.
As the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Chevrolet embarks on its 300-mile, 225-lap journey around Nashville Superspeedway's 1.33-mile concrete tri-oval, the company continues its passion for helping grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses by virtue of its ongoing partnership with the national Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Foundation, which has grown to be synonymous with Z-Line's sponsorship in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series in recent years, is prominently featured on the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Chevrolet, as well as the No. 19 Rolex Series entry of Daytona Prototype drivers Michael Valiante and Rob Finlay.
Practice and qualifying for Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 300 begins Friday afternoon with qualifying Saturday at 3 p.m. EDT, followed by the race at 7 p.m. EDT. ESPN2 will provide live coverage of both qualifying and the race.
Kevin Conway -- Driver, No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Busch Series Chevrolet at Nashville Superspeedway
You're racing on back-to-back weekends for the first time this season. That must make you feel pretty optimistic about your chances of getting into a racing groove a little sooner than you would after a lengthy layoff, correct?
"I'm definitely happy to get Bristol and Dover behind us and move on to a track that is a little more forgiving. We really did learn a lot at Bristol and Dover. We talked about that very thing in a team meeting on Monday. Being back in the car just days after we last raced together is tremendous. Before Bristol, I hadn't been in a car for months. Then it was 10 weeks until Dover. Nashville, being a stand-alone (Busch) race, gives us more practice time to fine-tune things for qualifying and the race. With the equipment JGR provides, I'm super confident we'll do well. Psychologically, it's a huge boost, especially coming off of a huge frustration like we had at Dover."
Racing a part-time schedule in such a competitive series, and coming to your third new track in three races, do you feel you're constantly in the pressure-cooker?
"Sometimes you feel like you're on American Idol, just hoping to survive and go on to the next round each race. But I'm loving it. Bristol and Dover are definitely unique and I liked those tracks a lot. We were able to figure both of them out in just a matter of laps. We should definitely be able to make short work out of getting up to speed at Nashville. It has its unique characteristics, but in talking with Denny (Hamlin) and (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff), it's really very much like the cookie-cutter 1.5-mile ovals. So that should flat-line our learning curve a good bit this weekend. It's definitely a track where having a good car will make more of a difference, so I'm looking forward to that a lot."