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Prose and Kohn

Braden River High alum finishes sixth in prestigious sprint races

Conner Morrell (28) races at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio, during Ohio Speedweek. Morrell would finish six overall after nine days of racing.
Conner Morrell (28) races at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio, during Ohio Speedweek. Morrell would finish six overall after nine days of racing.
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The only thing that disappointed Conner Morrell about his Ohio Speedweek performance was the rain. 

Morrell, a Braden River High alum, is a 410 sprint car driver. He has broken onto the national sprint car scene after starting his racing career while still a student at Rowlett Elementary Academy. Now 20 years old, Morrell made perhaps his biggest splash yet during Speedweek, an event that has thrilled racing fans for 42 years.

Held June 7-15, drivers compete night after night for nine nights, each at a different race track. The drivers tally points each night based on their finish before an overall winner is declared on the final night. More than 100 drivers participated in at least one Speedweek event this year. 

When the dust settled on Speedweek, Morrell stood in sixth place in the overall standings. He qualified for seven feature races — only two drivers qualified for more — and had an average feature finish of 11th place, with three top-10 finishes. In an event like Speedweek, consistency pays off. Morrell earned $4,340 for his effort. 

Morrell's week could have been even better. He qualified for the event's June 8 feature race at Fremont Speedway in Fremont, Ohio, in third place. Seven laps into the race, a deluge of rain hit the track, and the race was canceled. 

Braden River High alumnus Conner Morrell, 20, is making a name for himself on the 410 sprint car circuit.
Courtesy image

"You can tell if you have a chance to win within the first five laps, because you feel out your car," Morrell said. "We were fast (at Fremont). I think we could have won that race. I like a stable race car, one that I can finesse, and it was just perfect." 

The rain at Fremont aside, Morrell's sixth-place finish in Speedweek is a sign of how far he has come.

In many ways, he has beaten the odds. He said Florida does not have much of market for 410 sprint car races anymore. The only big 410 races come in February, when Volusia Speedway Park hosts the DIRTcar Nationals and East Bay Raceway hosts a few High Limit races. Otherwise, Morrell said, Florida is bereft of opportunities for drivers in his class. He and friend Danny Sams, a driver from North Port who finished 11th at Ohio Speedweek, were good enough in their teenage years to earn opportunities out of state. 

As a result, Morrell spends most of his time on the road, traveling across the midwest with his team. He comes back to Bradenton toward the end of November, once the racing season is over, to recharge.

Last year, that recharge was much needed. Morrell said he felt like he "hit a wall" in the second half of 2023, not finding much success after racing in some bigger events. That has changed in 2024. Morrell said he can feel himself improving as a driver, getting better at telling his team how he wants his car to feel instead of trying to adjust to his car on the fly. 

"Some of these guys (other drivers) like to go bang the wall down," Morrell said. "I'll go and do that, too, but I would prefer to be more finesse and get the car where I want it to be on the track." 

This year, Morrell is not thinking about recharging any time soon. He still has half a season of racing to go, and he wants to make it count while on an upswing. His next big race is the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on July 20. A World of Outlaws-sanctioned event that will hold its 41st-annual edition this year, there will be $175,000 up for grabs at the event. 

Race car driver is not the most glamorous job in the world, especially early in a driver's career. The road to the big time is full of challenges, not the least of which is the financial side of the sport. Asked where he'd like to be in a few years, Morrell said he either wants to be one of the top sprint car drivers in the country, or he wants to be a part of NASCAR on the stock car side of the sport.

Either way, he said, getting there will require a lot of funding. Morrell said money is the biggest obstacle to a racer's success. Morrell said he believes he has the talent as a driver to reach those levels, but in order to upgrade his car and compete in bigger events, he'll need financial support. 

That support will come the more he keeps having success like he did at Speedweek. By racing at different events and traveling the country, Morrell can make relationships with sponsors. Right now, Morrell is sponsored by Tub O' Towels and Amalie Oil Co., and he hopes to make those relationships bigger and better as the years progress. 

Through it all, Morrell said he would never want to be doing anything else. 

"It's an addiction," Morrell said. "I love the community and I love the people I work with every day. I just love racing."



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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