Written by Stephen Conley
June, 12th 2013
This week on the Future Stars of NASCAR Profile we feature a young man that has been ready to race since before he was able to walk. We go to the K&N Pro Series West to find Cameron Hayley. A 16 year old from Calgary Alberta Canada—Here is his story.
When you are 4 years old living in Calgary a career in racing is probably not the most likely thing to decide on. For Cameron Hayley, four years old seemed to be a good time to start turning laps in a go-kart. “My parents would take me to the track and we’d practice and just turn laps. I couldn’t compete yet because the age to run competitive races was seven.”
When I turned seven I ran competitively and won races and championships in Karts until I turned eleven, then my parents moved me into “Baby Grand Stock Cars” as well as Legends cars until I turned 14 then made the jump into the Super Late Models.
I only ran one year in the Super Late’s Cameron said because NASCAR lowered to the age limit in the K&N Pro Series to 15, so that is where we wanted to go.
“My dad made a call to K&N Pro Series owner Bill McAnally, asking him if there was anything that we could get set up to run after my 15th birthday. They got a deal together and the week after Cameron’s 15th birthday he qualified for the Montana 200 in Kalispell Montana and officially became the youngest driver to compete in the K&N Pro Series. “
Cameron would spend all of 2012 running for Bill McAnally racing. Bill is one of the most respected owners in the K&N Series, one that’s done a lot for the development of young talent. Cameron said Bill was my first entry into the NASCAR scene and helped me develop, make contacts and introduced me to strategic people.
The biggest thing that Bill helped me with was sponsor relations, the importance of staying loyal to a sponsor and how to work with them. I still talk to him nearly every race, we just didn’t click at Bills, with me and the team and everything that went on there, It wasn’t the best fit for me at the time Explained Cameron.
After the 2012 season Cameron made the move over to Gene Price Motorsports partnering with former driver Jeff Jefferson as the crew chief and his brother Jason would be in Cameron’s ear from atop the spotters stand.
With the upper levels of NASCAR being so technical and specialized, every part has a person that does nothing but work on that specific area andengineers that could fly the space shuttle, how does it help a young driver having two guys in your ear that are former drivers?
“I think it helps a ton, having two guys that are not only former drivers, but brothers. They have that communication, they’ve worked together and they’ve been in my shoes”
Gene Price seems to be a do it “his way” type of owner, building his own chassis in house. How is he as an owner and what has it brought to your career?” Gene is a guy that doesn’t really care much about the logistics of everything and stuff around the track that happens–He just wants to win. That is just a really good trait to have in a car owner Hayley said. Along with Jeff and Jason, across the garage is Cameron’s teammate a former Champion, Greg Pursley.” He is truly a veteran in the sport, he will race me harder than anyone on the track, but he’s always there to talk to me and makes sure that everything I need answered is answered.”
Cameron spoke highly of his new team owner, “It’s really nice being at Gene Price. It’s not just a business and race team. It’s like a family around there. The two teams together joke around and have a good time. It’s just that atmosphere around there that makes them successful and it’s making me successful.”
Communication, chemistry and a good atmosphere, everything that a driver could want in a race team to make him successful. Cameron told us that in 2012 he had to learn a lot about racing, both on track and off by himself. One of things that he hasn’t needed coaching on is going fast. Getting up to speed.
Thru the first five races of the 2013 season Cameron’s average starting position is 2.2 with two poles. You are either born with a heavy right foot or not. You haven’t seemed to struggle with that as so far in 2013 thru five races your average starting spot is 2.2 with two poles. What has given you that feel of how to stick it down in the corner and come out the other side, is it the confidence in your team or just a seat of your pants feel that you naturally have?
“I think it’s a lot of both. I’ve always been one that hasn’t been scared of much or scared to drive it further down in a corner than anyone else and I think that’s something that has made me successful and able to go fast. But, besides that I think it’s just the confidence in my team. I’ve only been with them since Daytona at the beginning of the year and just since then I have more faith in Jeff than probably anyone in my life. He’s kind of like a brother to me and I think that was really important to me that we developed that relationship right away, so that I can drive the car into these corners and know that he’s given me a good car to work with.”
Chemistry is talked about every weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and it’s not something easily developed. So for a young driver to gain confidence in his team and crew chief this early shows a lot of potential.
That potential has not been overlooked by NASCAR either. In 2012 they developed a program called the “NASCAR Next 9”, a program to spotlight nine drivers that they believed would make the jump and one day become the face of the Sprint Cup Series. Cameron was selected as part of that program in 2012 alongside the likes of Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Corey Lajoie among others. I’m not really sure how they select the drivers, I’m just glad to have been a part of Hayley said.
That potential also reared it’s head in February. NASCAR decided that short track racers from around the country needed the chance to showcase their talents under the lights and in the spotlight of Daytona international Speedway. Opening Speed weeks with the inaugural running of the UNOH Battle at The Beach on the super stretch of the famed 2.5 mile oval, building a four tenths mile short track and bring the the stars and champions from short tracks around the country.
The K&N Pro Series took to the track and Cameron told us that going all the way back to the champions banquet for 2012 the teams were talking about this one race. “We weren’t even sure if we could qualify for it,” Cameron said. I talked with Jeff during the banquet about being up to speed for it, then we hit the track for the first time and we were fastest in practice, qualifying and the heat races. The question then went from can we qualify to which one of us will win.” Both Greg and I were in contention all race long for the win, and when I did win, I only led that last lap, but to win it was huge. To think of all the names that have won at Daytona, even though I haven’t run on the big track, to still have my name as a Daytona winner is pretty big.”
After Daytona the team got into the regular season, Cameron and his No. 24 Cabinets by Hayley race team sit’s 2nd in points only 8 points behind Michael self who has won the last 3 races. Is this team ready to win and contend for a championship, especially being this new?
“For sure, the last 3 races that he’s won, we’ve had the worst possible luck, probably the worst luck we will have this year. We’ve had winning cars, but gotten spun out, tire issues. Everything that can keep us from winning those races has. We have a very strong chance to win this championship. We are only 5 races in and a long season. So we have a long time to turn our luck around and with fast cars, we just need to finish these races.” Cameron said But every battle in front there is one out the back, and sitting just a couple points back is team mate Greg Pursley.
Is Greg taking it easy on you or is he going to make you work for this Championship?
“No, he definitely not making it easy on me already let along later in the season. He teaches me a lot. He will try and get in my head and do everything possible to get me to screw up make a mistake. That just makes me stronger as a driver because I’m able to cope with that. Which I think is something that will help me when I get to the upper levels of the sport, where guys do that left, right and center. To learn that now will be valuable when I move up.”
With being part of the NASCAR Next program and looking forward to the Sprint Cup Series do you have a time frame for your career? A lot of drivers have tried to make that move and it was the wrong time or something held them back. How do you feel your progress has been? Cameron said “My goal certainly is to get to cup, but I dont really think we have a time frame as when we want to get there, obviously the sooner the better, but right now we are limited with the age restrictions, sixteen for trucks at tracks 1.1 miles in length or shorter and 18 for everything else. The biggest thing and I think this is the same for everyone is sponsorship and the ability to move up to the next level. I believe truly that I have the ability to move up, but like everything in this sports it’s all about getting that money in place.”
It’s always about the big dollar. Some people have it, some don’t and work really hard to get it. Some drivers have families that are big business owners and float the bill. Cameron has a unique tie to that.
Cabinets by Hayley is a family company, but as Cameron told us. “My dad made this company to fund my racing.”
Most drivers come in with a family business that has been in place and they use the business to pay for the racing. This family made a business after their son started racing to fund it.
How much of the family is behind the scenes, and what do they do for you to help your career progress smoothly?
There is a lot of behind the scenes work that a lot of people don’t see. In fact there is some that even I don’t see. When my dad goes to work, I think that he’s working and then the next day I find out he did all this stuff and didn’t spend an hour working on his own business, It was all spent on my race stuff all day.
“My dad just really makes sure everything is in order, even my family when they come to the track, making sure little things are done. Like food getting to the track, I’m talking to the right people and in front of the right people at the right times.”
When you talk about people, you have your dad, your family, your friends and your team, but when you were growing up and really just starting into this sport, did you have a driver you followed? Someone in the sport that you idolized, Someone that you had seen on track and said—That’s how I want to race.
Without hesitation Cameron said, “Jeff Gordon has always been my idol. My godfather, Jason is the one that really got me into racing itself at the age of 1 and 2. He brought me out to race city which is a local track here in Calgary and he was a Jeff Gordon fan, so I adopted that and I grew up liking Jeff. For the first time last year being part of the “Next 9” We were taken to Chicagoland for the first chase race and had the chance to meet all the drivers in the chase. That gave me the opportunity to meet Jeff for the very first time, which was a pretty big thing for me.”
Cameron has a good head on his shoulders, a ton of talent a support structure behind him that many could only dream of, he also knows that there is more to it than just sitting behind the wheel and pressing the gas. With a year left in High School, Cameron already knows that he wants to attend a university, maybe one such as the NASCAR Technical Institute. “I believe that knowing that information, I can come off the track and tell Jeff more than just the car is loose or tight. He may not know how bad it is, but if I tell him what change I think we need to make he has a better understanding of what I’m feeling. That should really help me later in the year.”
He also said that this summer during the race season he will be spending time at the Gene Price Motorsports shops down in Arizona learning how the team sets up the cars, learning about the engines and internal workings of the race car.
It worked for Rusty Wallace and many other drivers thru their career. The more you know, the better you can communicate and Cameron Hayley is developing everything he needs to one day sit at the top level of the sport.
We would like to Thank Cameron for taking time to sit down with us so we can put the spotlight on a star in the making.
Some drivers have it, some don’t. Cameron Hayley will be one to watch in the coming years.
Be sure to check him out on social media
Facebook.com/CameronHaleyMotorsports and on Twitter @cameronHayley24
If you know of a driver that has a special or unique story or is just dominating their local short track. E-mail me at SconleyMRD@gmail.com and share that story.
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