It was at a baseball game in high school where Stephen Conley realized he wanted to be behind the microphone. Calling the game from the press box above, he realized he was in the right place, just the wrong sport.
A lifelong race fan, Conley grew up immersed in the sport but it wasn't until that first day behind the mic where he realized where he really wanted to be. In college, Conley covered every sport possible but racing was still in the back of his mind.
"I worked in college covering Kent State University football and baseball and as well as Cleveland Browns football," Conley said, "but my goal was still to be covering racing.
Conley finally got his chance in the motorsports industry when he started filling in as a track announcer and photographer at short tracks across the country. In 2009, he had the chance of a lifetime when he was asked to co-host "Late Shift" on SIRIUS XM NASCAR.
"(Alex Hayden) brought me into Co-Host Late Shift on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio in 2009 with Himself and Legendary driver Buddy Baker," Conley said, "certainly my first foot in the door."
In 2012, Conley tried his hand at writing when he joined the ranks of "Insider Racing News" and later, "Motor Racing Digest." After spending a majority of his budding motorsports career behind a microphone, Conley had to learn how to write in a competitive world.
"I've had to re-learn a lot about covering the sport and learn some new aspects, especially with the rapid-fire news on social media," he said. "My skills behind a keyboard lacked. I could talk with the best of the, but grammar at times has not been my best friend."
In learning what the cutthroat business of motorsports media is really like, Conley has had the opportunity to gather some important contacts along the way.
"Without question the first in my line of approaching a career in Motorsports media has been Alex Hayden of Motor Racing Network," Conley said. "He took my questions, brought me into Co-Host Late Shift on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio in 2009 with Himself and Legendary driver Buddy Baker, certainly my first foot in the door."
Other prominent media journalists have given him some great advice that he carries with him as well. Bob Pockrass, Dustin Long and the editor of "Inside Racing News" Ron Felix, have all be key people in Conley's journey into the motorsports industry but the key person in helping him along the way is legendary Hall of Fame announcer Barney Hall.
"I would not be here today pursuing this career if it had not been for my influence and number one Idol, Barney Hall. I was honored to have had the chance to speak with with Barney for the first time at Darlington this year prior to the Southern 500."
What has been the hardest part about breaking into the industry? Getting your name out there and recognized.
"It is not an easy field to break into and if you linger, you'll be run over," Conley said. "You really have to have your ducks in a row working in that garage. Knowing the proper contacts, PR Reps for drivers and teams, and making yourself known to everyone. There are a lot of people that make this circus run, remembering them all is nearly impossible, but you have to know them."
Some of his best memories have come from inside the world of motorsports media. From his day on air at SIRIUS XM NASCAR to his time in the media center, Conley has definitely had some great experiences with even more to come.
"Sitting in with Alex and Buddy on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and spending a segment just talking racing with Buddy Baker while Alex repaired phone lines was a big moment for me," he said, "but my first solo experience in the media center... (for) the Rolex 24 at Daytona and getting to interview the overall champions from Chip Ganassi racing was a memory not soon forgotten."
Something Conley prides himself on is his weekly feature on "Motor Racing Digest". Each week, he interviews an up-and-coming driver and gives them a chance at being in the spotlight.
"This has become an extremely enjoyable feature to write," he said. "I talk to one driver each week from around the country. Maybe it's a driver that is just starting out in racing, or one that has been doing it for 50 years. The short tracks are what built NASCAR, they are where our future drivers will come from, but most of all our future fans. T From Tennessee to Louisiana to Las Vegas and California. Every state has a race track, every track has a driver and every driver has a story to tell, I love to be one that can help them tell it"
From the small short tracks in your town to the speedways that host the series greatest drivers, once you have that dream of working in the industry, you will do anything to make that dream come true.
The NASCAR media room may be considered one of the most difficult places to work but for Conley, all it took was one experience in the media center to realize that the long journey he has gone though to get to where he is has been completely worth it. A dream of one day sitting in the press box at Daytona, Darlington or Watkins Glen would be a dream come true.
"Some say it's a pipe dream and I should give up on it, but Barney Hall is 80 years old and as long as he keeps going and i have a breath left in this body, I have a goal that will be fulfilled one day...Even if just for a day."
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