WHEELERSBURG — The No. 71 car is and will always be synonymous with the Dirt Track Lade Model racing circuit.
Delmas Conley, a 1960 graduate of Valley High School, winner of 561 feature races across seven decades, and driver of that No. 71 car, passed away earlier this week following a battle with cancer.
To win over 500 races across seven decades of racing, it makes sense that your competitive spirit needs to match your driving capabilities.
Portsmouth Raceway Park announcer and WNXT’s Chuck Greenslate interviewed Conley after his final win this past year at PRP.
“He was not only passionate about racing, it seemed to me he was passionate about working hard,” Greenslate said, of Conley. “He was known to be a hard worker and I think he took a lot of pride in that.”
In 2003, Conley was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame along with seven other drivers. That honor didn’t halt his ambitions, however, as the No. 71 car and its’ driver went on to race an additional 18 years.
Later in life, Conley was still finding his way into the winner’s circle. Career win No. 561 for Conley, the final of his career at age 79, came in the Late Model Division on Aug. 7, 2021, at Portsmouth Raceway Park.
“There have been guys his age to race, but I don’t know of anyone in their late 70’s to be as competitive as he was,” Greenslate said. “I don’t know if we’ll see another Late Model winner at that age anywhere in the world, especially with the field of cars that were there that night. There were some pretty good competition that night; it’s incredible.”
Former PRP track promoter Donna Rayburn said that Conley would spend hours at their track ensuring he was properly prepared, before and after races.
“He was such a hard-working person. He might be at the race track until 2 or 3 a.m. on Saturday night, and then be back working Sunday morning,” Rayburn said. “He inspired everyone he talked to, one of those people you meet in life and feels like he truly cares about you. Always had a smile and wise words anytime you’d interact with him.”
Conley played a key role in helping organize the first Fred Dillow Memorial Race, which was run for 25 years between 1995-2019 at Portsmouth Raceway Park. Delmas was also awarded the Fred Dillow Award during the PRP Banquet of Champions in 2011. The FDMR Facebook page made a post in remembrance of Conley’s passing.
“Delmas Conley was so much more than the driver of the #71 car and a member of the Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. He was an amazing man who had an enormous impact on the community, friends, drivers and fans. He was also a role model, family man and hard working man,” the post read.
Conley was also an inspirational figure to drivers of all ages and wasn’t afraid to lend a suggestion or a helping hand to a competitor.
“There’s a lot of people who drive race cars that are so passionate about racing. Sometimes they’re so passionate they forget about other things,” Greenslate said. “Delmas always put his family, his business, his work ahead of racing and I always commended him for that.”
Visitation will be held at Harrison-Plyes Funeral Home located in Wheelersburg on Sunday, January 9, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The funeral service will be held Monday, January 10, at 11 a.m. with Dr. Calvin Ray Evans of Rubyville Community Church officiating. Interment will be in Memorial BurialPark.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved