- March 15, 2017
It has been 12 years since Conner Morrell first sat behind the wheel of a car and raced it, and he's finally living the life he envisioned at that moment.
It's not a life everyone would want, Morrell said. The 18-year-old Braden River High grad is based out of Lakewood Ranch, but he will spend most of his time now away from home.
That road trip begins April 7-8 at Attica Raceway Park in Attica, Ohio, with the Core and Main Spring Nationals on the Tony Stewart-owned All-Star Circuit of Champions. Morrell said he hopes to participate in approximately 80 sprint car races this year, which would be 40 more than his previous high. He said it will be a grind, but one he embraces.
He has shown he can make a living from driving sprint cars, and for him, what could be better?
"I just want to race, bad," Morrell said.
Besides racing more in 2023, he also is going to do it on a higher level. Morrell signed with Marc Dailey Racing on March 13, giving him a full racing team and an enhanced support system for the first time.
He also announced deals to race in two high-prestige sprint car series in 2023, Stewart's All-Star Circuit and former NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson's dirt-track High Limit series. At these events, Morrell will have to grow up fast as he won't be competing against amateurs and hobbyists any more.
The good news, Morrell said, is the pay will reflect the jump in difficulty. The High Limit series, for instance, will award winners $23,000 in 10 of its 12 races, with the other two races awarding $50,000. He will also have a shot at the Eldora Million at the Eldora Speedway in New Weston, Ohio, on July 13. True to its name, the "richest race in sprint car history" awards $1 million to its champion.
The prize money is nice, Morrell said, but it's not why he competes. He said he genuinely loves racing more than anything else.
Now that he's signed to a team, Morrell's worries turn to securing sponsorships and earning enough to keep advancing. He has logos for Tub O' Towels and Amalie Motor Oil on his car.
"I want to win," Morrell said. "That's all I want to do. I don't care about the money. I have high expectations for myself and my team."
Morrell has grown a lot — as a person and as a driver — since he was piloting sprint cars as a middle school student. The more you get behind the wheel, he said, the more you learn and the better you get. He said it's why drivers in their 50s and 60s are able to remain competitive for so long.
He said he's improved his mental game more than anything else the last few years. He's better able to stay focused during races and he knows when to make moves and when to be patient. He said he's also getting better at giving constructive feedback on the race car after testing.
His constant learning is also why, Morrell said, he's not expecting a championship in either of his high-profile series — at least in his first year.
"We're probably not going to go out and set the world on fire, though it would be cool if we did," Morrell said. "This year, I'm looking to get all sorts of experiences. I'll be going against some of the best drivers in the business and I'll be constantly on the road for the first time. I'm trying to live the life of someone in that position, balancing my personal life with racing."
Morrell said he would like to win at least one All-Star series race and finish in the top 10 of a High Limit series race. Other than that, Morrell said, his goal is to have fun. He's proven himself capable of pulling out victories. In 2022, Morrell won the 410 Sprint Car Race at Hilltop Speedway in Millersburg, Ohio, earning $2,500. He also won the Steel City Stampede at the Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania, and earned $3,000.
Down the road, Morrell said, he's keeping his options open. Morrell has always been a fan of NASCAR, and he's considered giving stock car racing a shot, he said. But he also would like to own a racing team of his own someday, which might be more feasible at lower levels of the sport. With every additional year of experience, Morrell's vision of his future changes.
No matter what, Morrell said, racing is a part of it. That, he said, is something he will never take for granted — even when the grind is at its peak.
"Obviously, back in the day, I had a lot less worries," Morrell said. "I have to treat this like a job now. I can't ride scooters with my friends at the track all day and then race. But I still have fun. That is what I want to do. It's like a drug. Once you get on the ride, you can't get off."