---- — For Kokomo’s Conner Donelson, racing is a way of life.
It’s no wonder since his father, Randy, is a former sprint car rookie of the year at the Kokomo and Gas City I-69 speedways and his uncle Jeff is a past Lincoln Park Speedway champion in addition to running up front for a bulk of his career.
To say that the 2013 season has been an adventure for Conner Donelson would be an understatement.
Now in his third full season piloting a sprint car, Donelson has found himself splitting time between his family-owned Windmill Grill/Joe’s Wrecker and Salvage/Geoff Brown Photography/Printcraft Press/Performance Powder Coating No. 42 and the Jim Sweat-owned Wee 3.
Thursday night at the local track, the recent Kokomo High School graduate and current IUK freshman will put his skills to the test against the best that non-wing sprint world has to offer in the second running of the Sprint Car Smackdown.
“As far as the stage we’ll be running on, the Smackdown is the biggest,” Donelson said Monday night while pouring over homework. “The track is going to be packed all three nights and will probably be the biggest crowd I’ve ever raced in front of.”
A year ago, like thousands of others, Donelson watched the Smackdown from the bleachers, watching the best the sport has to offer go wheel to wheel in an intensity-filled three nights. This year he’s hoping to use the added seat time of running two cars to his advantage and have a solid showing.
“Up to this point in my racing, making the field at the [Kokomo] Klash last fall was the highlight,” he stated. “When I was a little kid sitting up in the stands watching that race it was always a goal of mine and to make it last year was pretty prestigious. If I could go out and have a good run Thursday and make it in, then that might top the Klash. It would be a big deal because it’s a USAC show and we’re running against teams with a lot bigger budget than what we have and that’s why we don’t really run with USAC that much.”
While running two different cars during a season might seem a disadvantage, Donelson noted that juggling the rides has helped his learning curve.
“It’s been an up-and-down year this year,” he said. “It’s been different running with a new team and communicating what I’m feeling in the car to them. Driving the 42 car, Dad and Jeff always had my back and knew what I liked when I was in the car. With the Sweat team, I’ve had to learn to communicate better so they know what the car’s doing and how to change it to fit my driving style.”
He went on to note how different things from each car have helped make both cars better on race nights.
“The Wee 3 team is a great group of guys and they’ve been real patient with me,” he stated. “We’ve taken some of the things I’ve learned from that group and used it on the 42 car and vice-versa. This year has really challenged me and tested my skills.”
Brett Bowman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the sports department.