WINCHESTER, Ind. (May 2) – Chad Finley doesn’t see his former ride at Brad Keselowski Racing as a lost opportunity. He views it as proof he has the capability to race at stock-car racing’s upper levels.
The 20-year-old from DeWitt, Mich., raced for the current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver in the ARCA series in 2009-10, but Keselowski consequently worked a deal with Penske Racing to put developmental driver Parker Kligerman in the seat.
Finley, though, remains undeterred. He’s hoping his time in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour presented by GM Performance Parts will capture the attention of NASCAR’s best and he’ll get another shot.
“Brad gave me an awesome opportunity,” Finley said. “It’s not that I lost it. It’s just unfortunate that sometimes it doesn’t matter how talented you are; it’s how big a check you can write.”
Finley will be racing his family-owned Ford in this weekend’s Winchester 100 presented by JEGS.com at famed Winchester Speedway.
“You can still make it the old-fashioned way by getting up on the steering wheel and winning races,” Finley said. “But it’s so much harder with the economy to succeed without a sponsor. It was an awesome opportunity, and I was super competitive.”
In 10 ARCA races in Keselowski’s Chevrolet, Finley had one pole, three top-five and six top-10 finishes. Plus, he broke Joey Logano’s track record at Rockingham Speedway.
But it wasn’t enough to keep him in the ride, as Kligerman is a Penske development driver who needed a place to race, and Keselowski provided it.
“Now it’s my job as a car owner and a father to build this race team and try to get some marketing partners to get back to speedway racing so we can get some notoriety,” Jeff Finley said. “Racing is what it’s all about for Chad, ever since he was 9 years old. He had a great opportunity at Brad Keselowski Racing. At the end of the day, it’s all about money, and unfortunately, I’m not a rich dad.”
Jeff Finley is, however, a Hall of Fame driver who won countless Late Model races on short tracks in the Midwest. Now, he’s trying to guide Chad along a similar path.
“There probably will be some people who disagree with me, but the JEGS series is more competitive than the Super Series,” Chad Finley said. “Everything is a lot closer, and all the engines are within four to five horsepower. It brings out the top talent. It’s all about the driver, not so much the car.
“Yes, a lot has to do with the car, but the driver is more important the car.”
Last year, Finley finished third in All-Stars Tour points, posting nine top-10 finishes to lead the series. He also finished third in last October’s race at Winchester.
“I love Winchester,” Finley said. “The first time I ever ran there was last year, and I ended up on my roof. But then we went there in October and had a super strong car, and our strategy worked out with saving our tires. We were hoping for a caution at the end, but we never got.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend. It’s an awesome race track.”
Finley, too, has an eye on the future, knowing his past has been pretty good.
“I have all the confidence in myself,” Finley said. “It’s all about opportunities, and you only get so many. We’ll keep trying to find the right one, and hopefully there will be more in the future.”
Finley is among 26 drivers currently entered at Winchester. Other notables include defending series champion Erik Jones and winner of the first JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race of 2012, Daniel Hemric.
Other series competitors entered include Brent Downey, Josh Nelms, Jeremy Lepak, Eddie Hoffman, Chris Koslek, Tanner Bohen, Jerrod Foley, Tom Woodin, Cody Coughlin, Wes Griffith Jr., Ali Kern, Colin Nickolai and Trent Snyder.
There are eight candidates for the 2012 Howie Lettow Rookie of the Year presented by Howe Racing entered, including rookie points leader Anderson Bowen, who finished third in the series’ season opener. Other Rookies entered include Cole Williams, Brandon Hermiller Jordan Miller, Brandon Oakley, Josh Hobson, Winston Wood and Taylor Ferns.
Pits open at Winchester Saturday at 10 a.m. Eastern, with All-Stars practice slated for noon to 5 p.m.
On Sunday, the pits open at 8 a.m., with the drivers meeting slated for 9:45 a.m. The first JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour practice is at 10:30 a.m., with the second at 11:15. Qualifying begins at 1 p.m.
Winchester’s race program, which also includes the Top Speed Fabrication CRA Late Model Sportsman Series, is starts at 2 p.m.
Fans will be admitted free to the grandstands on Saturday. For Sunday, tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students age 9-18, and kids 8 and under will be admitted free. Pit passes cost $30.