SPARTA, Ky. — The city of Conyers is getting closer and closer to the winner’s circle.
That’s because local product Chris Cockrum, a 22-year-old that has his entire family-run racing operation in his grandmother’s backyard shop in Conyers, posted the best finish of his young ARCA career at last Saturday’s Click It or Ticket Buckle-Up Kentucky 150.
Cockrum ended up 17th at the Kentucky Speedway, making it the best mark of his three-year ARCA career. At one point, Cockrum was as high as fifth late in the race in his No. 28 Advanced Communications Group car.
If it weren’t for an in-race miscommunication, thanks to an earplug malfunction, Cockrum just might have kept his top-five spot.
"When they told me I was fifth, I was thinking about just staying out there and not pitting," Cockrum laughed.
The great finish was on par with the pedigree of the car he drove (ARCA owners buy used NASCAR models when they go out to pasture), considering he was piloting Jeff Gordon’s former rig on the big occasion.
Another factor curbing the extremely cash-strapped team was that they didn’t want Cockrum to go full-bore. If he wrecked — as he had in his big debut at Daytona this year — Cockrum, his father/team owner, Lynn, and team Chief Operating Officer David Cooper wouldn’t be able to afford a new one this season.
"It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," Cockrum said. "I told my dad and crew chief (Tony Blanchard) that I am so accustomed to put the hammer down and going, so pulling the reigns back and trying not to hit something was really tough mentally. Everyone was happy, but it was frustrating, too."
Meanwhile the Cockrum family struggles with the financial part of keeping Cockrum racing.
"We are about four tiers lower than the poorest team," Lynn Cockrum joked. "But we are all about hard work."
Currently, the team is trying to raise enough money to make another try at Cockrum’s career best, this time at the Aug. 28 Chicagoland race.