DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 1998) Narrowly losing the 1997 NASCAR Winston Racing Series Sunbelt Region championship to Keith Green of Heart O' Texas Speedway, Clay Dale of Jefferson, Ga., was not to be denied in 1998. Dale, 31, ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 1998)
Narrowly losing the 1997 NASCAR Winston Racing Series Sunbelt Region championship to Keith Green of Heart O' Texas Speedway, Clay Dale of Jefferson, Ga., was not to be denied in 1998. Dale, 31, amassed 17 wins in 24 starts, including winning the first seven races of the season, to capture the regional title and $39,500 that goes with it.
"We started this year with a clean slate. I just ran one race at a time," said Dale. "We set our goals this year to win the regional and the national championship. We fell a little short on winning the national championship."
Racing is a family affair in the Dale house. Much of Dale's success has come as a result of a true family effort. His brother and business partner, Derek Dale, served as his crew chief for the last two seasons.
"Derek and I have put together two strong years in the hopes of showing some potential sponsors what we can do on and off the track," said Dale. "This is a tough track with great tradition and tough competition. The best have run here, and we figured we might be able to make the jump to a NASCAR Touring series after the two years that we've had."
Derek hung up his helmet for two years to direct the team's effort. Still, Derek would like to get back behind the wheel with hopes of driving to victory lane. Regardless of whether he continues on as crew chief or resumes driving, the duo and their families will drive to the national champions' banquet in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 6.
"He's (Derek) agreed to help me if we can move to a touring series, but if that doesn't work out you'll likely see him behind the wheel again," said Dale. "Our goal is to move on to the Slim Jim All Pro Series (a part of the NASCAR Touring Division) if we can find the right situation."
Dale is now the second driver to win a regional championship while competing at the 3/8-mile Lanier National Speedway located north of Atlanta in Gainesville, Ga. Mike Love won two NASCAR Winston Racing Series regional championships (1987, 1992) while racing at Lanier. Dale now can be mentioned in the same breath as the multi-time former champion.
"I guess the only regret I have in not winning the regional championship last season was that I now could have had two regional championships, just like Mike. When you think of Lanier you think of Mike Love. I'm just honored to have one championship though. The competition is very tough at Lanier," said Dale.
Winning on the track requires a coordinated effort with team members working together, along with having solid equipment. Wally's Precision Machine of Chester, Va., builds Dale's engines. They have been strong and consistent for two years. While Dale and his team chose a strong but reliable engine combination, they decided to take a risk with a new chassis design.
"Scott Sutherland builds our cars and we were the first ones to buy one of his new designs a couple of years ago," said Dale. "We've won 24 races in '97 and '98, which has resulted in a winning percentage right at 50 percent. Scott has built winning cars at Lanier for years and we've certainly benefitted from his expertise." Even with the combination of the team's talent and the right equipment, the jump to NASCAR Touring series competition still requires more. A team must find funding above and beyond that required to run a weekly program. Dale is a successful businessman, as well as a talented race car driver. Don't be surprised to see him in NASCAR Touring series competition in the near future. He sets his goals and attains them.
Source: NASCAR Online