By Cody Heacox
Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to this week’s Q&A. I had the opportunity to talk to former Nationwide (now called Xfinity Series) and Camping World Truck Series driver Cale Gale. Not only is Cale a driver, he is also a crew chief, an engineer, and also helps his dad out with Gale Force. He currently drives the 95 Gale Force modified car part-time.
Q: What got you interested in racing?
A: I’m like a lot of guys my age in this sport. My Dad was my reasoning for getting into racing. My Grandfather was a well-known karter and boat racer in the Southeast. I grew up at the racetrack, raceshop. My Dad owned an automotive machine shop when I was really young, and he built cars for people at night, as well as raced himself. He built me a little car/go-kart when I was 3. And, I ran my first race in 1989. I was 4. He traveled the NASCAR All pro circuit in the early 90s, so when I was 7 or 8 during the summer I was going up down the road with him a lot from track to track. In the mid 90s, he and my stepmother started a trucking company together. And it was very successful, so Dad chose to race locally more around Mobile, Al., have more of a family lifestyle and still race, and be a businessman. During that time he won the SLM track championship. From 95-98 and pretty well dominated in that timeframe. Then in 1999 he broke his back in a crash. And that slowed his driving down a little. We built my first “racecar” in 2000, and my passion for racing grew then. In my teens we had a lot of success early on, for the first couple years I ran a division back home called Pure Stock. It was old Chevelles and Camaros. My first year Mobile would have 60 cars in that division. A and B mains. But the class taught you how to drive they were 3400 lbs cars that made around 420Hp on 8 inch treaded tires, I crashed a few times right off the bat, and learned the ropes of car control and stiff competition. I learned the most and had the most fun of my career at that point. We won a ton of races and the championship in 2001. The next year we moved up to SLM. I was junior in high school, We had a great team we were known as the peach fuzz gang in our area, we went on to win the rookie of the Year and track champion the first to accomplish that feat in 38 years of the track 2002. 2003 and 2004 were building years for us. Trucking industry started to struggle some, finances were tough. We won some races. But not like we should have been. 2005 we started Galeforce Suspension. Dad had told me I needed to learn suspension so during that time I started to learn shocks 2003 and 2004. At the time we were pretty much the only one in our area that offered a “shock service”. And we gained a lot of momentum and really built an advantage over the competition at the time in suspension. 2005 we won a lot of races right off. We won at Lakeland,New Symrna, Cordele, Pensacola, Mobile. Didn’t matter we were fast. SLM, Truck, PLM. I was driving for a guy named Tracy Goodson and he was a racer and he foot the bill, and we won races. Eddie Mercer was a well-known racer from our area. And he was best friends with James Finch who owned a Busch/Cup team. Well Eddie took a liking to me and my work ethic and he was longtime competitor to my Dad. Eddie was the reason for my opportunity. I left home the summer of 2005 went to Spartanburg Sc. To work for James as their shock specialist. I learned a ton about myself and racecars at that time. Winter of 2005 we went and tested some at Greenville Pickens and they would let me drive the Busch Car or Cup Car and I guess I proved I could drive a little and they gave me a chance to run some ARCA races. I won Gateway in 2006 in my second start. And it was live on Speed that night and put my name on the map. A few weeks later my phone rang and Kevin Harvick wanted me to talk to them about driving some Xfinity races for 2007. That’s how we ended up in Winston-Salem.
Q: You raced in the Nationwide(now Xfinity) series, Trucks Series, tell the fans what it was like racing against Kyle Busch, Ron Hornaday, Kevin Harvick, and other champion drivers?
A: In 2006, I ran my first Xfinity race, it was at Nashville(big track). We were fastest in final practice. I think we qualified around 10th. And when they dropped the green, it was everything I had to not lose positions in a pretty good driving racecar. I knew that I had some learning to do at that level. There are good drivers all over the country and even into Canada. I feel that I have the most fun when I’m racing someone and I feel our cars are pretty equal and it’s driver vs driver. But to actually be around some of your childhood heroes growing up and racing wheel to wheel with them. Tony Stewart was one of my heroes as a kid, and I was driving Kevin’s car at Michigan in 2008. I had a really good qualifying run and Tony came up to me and said did you “flatfoot” it and I said Yes sir. His response “you crazy”.When we sat on the pole at Bristol 2008 and Dario Francitti was outside pole and we took a picture for the front row and I thought to myself, This guy has won the Indy 500 before. It’s moments like that in my career, I will never forget.
Q: What it was like being teammates with Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday?
Being teammates ….I earned a lot of respect from both Kevin and Ron. Kevin is an exceptional racecar driver. He is an elite talent. Just naturally gifted, understands the feel that he needs and can direct the team on what the car needs to go faster. Some drivers have that feel and some don’t. There is a reason where he is in racing. He works for it. Ron is one of the most down to earth people you will ever meet, always had appreciation to his team. And really knew how to get the most out of his equipment. When you are on track, Ron didn’t give anyone an inch. If you were racing for 10th well you were gonna race him hard for it. His talent is why he is in the Hall of Fame. Just knows how to win. Ron and my Dad are so much alike. So I would often lean on Ron for advice or tips about lines or even life, Ron had been there he had been on the upswing and the downswing. And he was there anytime I needed it or if I needed him to this day.
Q: I remember actually watching the race when you beat ole Rowdy Busch(Kyle). What was it like being about to beat the man who dominated that race and who is always the man to beat in that series?
A: Everyone ask me all the time, about that race. I guess it will be the race that defines me forever. I knew when I strapped into the truck that night, it could be my last ride at that level. We had been close a few times that year and strategy or my mistakes didn’t capitalize. We had a red flag before the GWC. We had better rubber, and we came from.like 16th to 2nd in 8 or 10 laps. And I was making sometime up on the bottom, which is unusual at Homestead. But my truck was working really good down low, I knew that if I could get even, we would have a shot. It came down to the last corner, of the last lap of the season. And possibly the last ride of my career. I did what any real racer would have done. Win the race.
Q: What is it about Bowman Gray that is different from any other track you’ve raced at?
A: Well, Bowman Gray is different from a lot of aspects. I have my opinions about some things that I agree with and some that I disagree with, but it works. It works from the Fan aspect and it works for the business side of it. It’s a show. You have your heroes and your villains. That’s what made short track racing in the beginning. All promoters fed off the show the drivers create. Bowman Gray style of racing creates just that. One groove, flat, tight 1/4 mile racing. That creates nudging, rubbing, tempers, retaliation and that’s what keeps the stands full. There are a lot of good drivers over there you can’t take success away from a winner. Love them or hate them they win for a reason. They work for it. I think from an outside perspective the rulebook should be the rulebook and the “GRAY” area should be tightened up quite a bit. Or you will see a hurt in-car counts, because a common man will eventually not be able to keep up. That goes from Motors, Tires, and Weights. Whatever the case may be what is right for one team should be the same for every team. But then again its consistently the most successful short track in the United States.
Q: Of all the racers you’ve raced against, who would you say you enjoyed racing with the most?
A: My Dad. I was 16 and just moved into a Super Late Model. At the time, we were winning a lot of races on the division I was running in. Dad was just running hit or miss events. But we ran together at Mobile, I was running 3rd and he was all over me. I thought I had a pretty good car. Turning good, good drive off. Thought I was driving 100 percent. Until my old man passed me a few laps later. Driving off the corner sideways and smoking the RR tire, and driving off from me. That moment I realized how good of a driver my Dad was, and I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was. I will say that was probably the single most humbling driving lessons, I ever received from anyone.
Q: Could we see you get back into racing in NASCAR?
A: Of course I would love to get back into at the highest level. Racing has changed and it’s not about the talent or knowledge you carry. It’s business, it’s about the amount of money you bring. I was very fortunate to get the chances and I had a lot of people support me and help me along the way. I never made it to Sunday’s like we worked to do and sacrificed most of our lives to make it happen. But I’m so very thankful to live out what most only dream of, and hope that guys like myself that just wanted to do it, got to live the dream out with me some. I’m currently still within the industry. I work at Roush Fenway in the race engineering department. I work with some with latest technology in the sport today. If it’s simulation, 8 post work or even driving Ford’s simulator when the cup or xfinity drivers can’t make it. There is not a night when I go to sleep, that I haven’t learned something or some nights when I can’t sleep because I’ve brainstormed a new shock build in my head, that I think will benefit the racecar in someway. I’m proud of what Dad has achieved with Gale Force and his proven theory of spring forces and loads. His machine and has won thousands of races across the country and truly changed the landscape of the way short track racing is studied. He used is own experience of studying vehicle dynamics and gave the racer a tool that you possibly can not race without.
Q: Who would you say is your biggest inspiration when it comes to racing?
A: Biggest Inspiration…My Dad, he is my hero. My reason for being who I am today on and off the track. He is a rare breed. He is one of the most respected people in all of racing, and I’m not saying that because he’s my Dad. I’m saying that because of how much he’s done for people for years. He’s helped more people win races. He’s helped me that have never won a race, become winners. On the flip side. My son. He is getting to the age where my focus will be on him. He isn’t quite ready yet, but he’s getting there. I hope that our bond becomes strong enough and I can teach him values and lessons like my Dad taught me.
Q:Have considered ever running in the Sportsman or Street Stock division at BGS?
A: We actually built a Sportsman here a few years ago. I won a couple and Dad won one. We ran about half the season. Gale Force has multiple customers in those two divisions. Whether its tire service, setups, or shock service. I’d say some shape or form around 60 percent of those cars are customers of Gale Force. It’s nice to see it, we get as much self-satisfaction of seeing our customers being successful as if we are there running. I’d like to run the modified a little more next season. I gotta check that off the bucket list to have my name in the Bowman Gray book.