Chad Finley might have a chip on his shoulder. After he heard what other people thought of him when he was a teenager, a refocus of his racing efforts have the now 22-year-old at the top of his short track racing game.
The Dewitt, Michigan racer used the doubts thrown his way as motivation to craft himself into a better driver and leader inside his race shop.
“In 2009 and 2010 there was a lot of people who said I didn’t work hard enough,” said Finley. “They said I wasn’t dedicated enough and I really took that to heart.”
Over his career Finley has run ARCA, CRA, Southern Super Series, Main Event, Gold Cup, ASA Late Models, JEGS, Super Pro and various unsanctioned events. He had seen some success, but it didn’t come as often as he would’ve liked.
But a recent third-place finish in the ARCA Midwest Tour’s Howie Lettow Memorial 150 event at the Milwaukee Mile allowed Finley to reflect on how much his re-dedication to the short track game have positively impacted his career.
“I really got tired of the performances we had been having,” said Finley. “We were a seventh to 13th-place car at best at certain times and we needed be better. I learned a little bit form each of people I had worked with and we have put all that together. Now, I am in the race shop about 70 hours a week and that’s ok because it pays off with results.”
Milwaukee was a reflection of the kind of success he had seen over the past season or two. Finley has been strong in the races at tracks he’s been strong at before. He’s also been surprisingly strong in events he had not been expected to be a threat in. When his No. 42 Super Late Model is not 100-percent, his crew has made a habit of getting it close and then the driver works to compensate.
“It was so important to run well at Milwaukee after we were so bad last year,” added Finley. “We finally figured it out after being like 29th in practice. We were close up there and that’s something to be proud of.”
Since the start of the 2013 season Finley has two JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour wins at Columbus and another at Springport. He sat on the pole for the 2013 Rattler and led 100 laps before engine trouble. He was second at the Battle at Berlin 251 and he was eighth at the All American 400 and 13th in his first Snowball Derby.
“We are building a team,” explained Finley. “Chad Finley Racing has had some people get hired away or move on so we were a bit hindered by that, but we keep on trying each week. We have been snake bit by bad luck. We were really good at the Snowball Derby and we didn’t fare well after the pit strategy.”
Finley also bit off a K&N East start earlier this year at Richmond International Speedway (VA) where he qualified fourth. Finley ran well before the toe got knocked out and he faded to finish 12th.
“Anytime you are under the car you are going to learn something,” said Finley. “Richmond was a good example of that. We kept digging and making the car better each time we went out. We qualified third and had a good showing.”
Away from the driver seat Finley is a driver coach for Grant Quinlan in JEGS series. He’s learning every angle of the trade as he’s looking to make the team better with other drivers.
In the end the goal is the same as any other driver.
“I want to win more races, I am a race car driver.”
– By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Operations Manager – Twitter: @ElginTraylor – Photos Speed51.com / Bruce Nuttleman for Speed51.com