From the track to the pit box, Gale will be switching gears in 2013
Cale Gale ended his 2012 season in Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he beat Kyle Busch by a front fender to win the final Camping World Truck Series event of the year. This year, he will open his 2013 campaign at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C., working as a crew chief for a 15-year-old developmental driver.
It’s quite a change for the most recent Truck Series race winner, the odd man out in an offseason sponsorship shuffle, who won’t be in the starting field when the coming season begins at Daytona. But what the 27-year-old Gale does have is a wealth of automotive knowledge honed from time studying shocks and suspension pieces, allowing him to trade his place behind the wheel for a spot atop the pit box and embark upon a second career that is helping him remain active in the sport.
The next time Gale visits Victory Lane, it may be as crew chief to Brandon Jones, a sophomore at Mooresville (N.C.) High School who will compete this year for Turner Scott Motorsports in a late model series as well as select NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Camping World Truck Series races. It’s the second stint as a crew chief for Gale, who also worked at Richard Childress Racing with Ty Dillon in the Pro Series in 2010.
Yet it’s very clear where his devotion lies.
“Obviously, my heart is always going to be in being a race car driver,” Gale said. “It’s what I’ve worked my whole life to be able to do, to drive at a professional level and to drive for a team capable of winning races. All I’ve ever done is work to be able to win. Obviously, my heart is always in the seat. If the right situation is there for me to be able to do that, obviously I’d have to consider it to see where it winds up. But obviously you have to pay your bills to make a living.”
Being torn is understandable, given that the Mobile, Ala., native has raced at NASCAR’s national level since 2009, scoring a handful of top-10s to go along with his victory at Homestead. Rheem, the primary backer of his vehicle at Eddie Sharp Racing last season, left to support defending Truck Series champion James Buescher for 2013. Gale went into the 2012 season finale with nothing lined up for the following year, a fact overlooked following a furious finish that involved him banging Busch up into the wall as they both approached the checkered flag.
“To say I was able to win a Camping World Truck Series race, that was a dream come true for me,” said Gale, who will work with veteran crew chief Mike Greci on Jones’ program. “I’ve always got that one victory if nothing else happens. Hopefully, it’s not the end. I definitely don’t want it to be the end. I feel like as a race car driver, I’m as good as I’ve ever been.”
"All I can do is keep working hard … and try to win races no matter what I’m doing."
-- Cale Gale
For now, being a good crew chief will have to do. It’s a transition others have made -- among them Paul Wolfe, signal caller for reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who started out as a driver. Gale learned the ins and outs of race cars from his father, became fascinated by front geometry and suspension, and even worked as a shock specialist for Phoenix Racing and Kevin Harvick Inc. A few years ago he helped crew chief Mike Shelton on a partial Truck Series campaign fielded for Buescher, making this return to the Turner fold feel like a homecoming of sorts.
He’s no stranger to Jones, either. The teenaged driver approached Gale in 2009 at a Canadian Tire Series event wondering how to break into the sport, and soon enough the Atlanta native was shaking down a Legends car at a short track in Grand Bay, Ala. That led to weekly events and successes at Gresham Motorsports Park and Lanier National Speedway in Georgia. When it came time to find a crew chief for an accelerated campaign in 2013, Turner Scott reached back into Jones’ past.
“They felt they’d like to have that connection back between me and him,” Gale said, “and see how it works out for 2013.”
In addition to a full late model season, Jones will run seven Pro Series East events on larger tracks where NASCAR’s national division also competes. Thanks to the recent lowering of the Truck Series age limit to 16, he’ll also be able to run a few of those races once he comes of age in February. For Gale it means overseeing a hodgepodge of tracks, cars and circuits, all of it beginning in March in out-of-the-way Kenly. Victory Lane in Homestead will seem very far away indeed.
And yet, at the same time this route may be the most viable way back there for a crew chief who will always be a driver first.
“On my off weekends, I’ll pick a race out and do what I can, and hopefully some opportunities come up to where I’ll be able to race a little bit at the higher levels,” Gale said. “The main goal is to work on Brandon’s career and get that going in the right direction, and see what happens. Maybe 2014 will be a little different for myself. All I can do is keep working hard … and try to win races no matter what I’m doing.”