Priddis teen tops in Daytona
Auto racing: Cameron Hayley wins Battle of the Beach
Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 10:18 am
No need for Priddis area residents to worry about one teenage boy speeding down Highway 22, he gets his thrills by winning at Daytona.
Cameron Hayley, 16, won the inaugural Battle of the Beach at the famed Daytona International Raceway on Feb. 19. He didn’t lead the NASCAR sanctioned 60-mile race until just before going under the checkered flag.
“We only led maybe the last 100 feet of the race,” Hayley said. “Coming into the last lap, there was a big wreck in front of me at the bottom and I just went to the outside to avoid it.”
He was following the first-place driver nose-to-tail down the backstretch and was able to pass him on the corner.
“I only won by about a quarter-of-a-car length,” he said.
The race was on a 4/10-of-a-mile oval, which is on the inside of the two-and-a-half mile oval on where Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 just five days later.
Daytona is practically a continent away from where Hayley caught the racing bug.
He got hooked on racing when he went to Race City Speedway in Calgary as a two year old. He was soon trading in his dinky toys for go-carts.
“I just fell in love with it,” Hayley said. “When I was four years old I got my first go-cart and I was racing them when I was seven.”
He started racing modified cars as early as 10 years old and competed in the K&N series last year. The series is about three rungs down from the big boys — and ladies — on the NASCAR circuit.
“The K&N series is kind of like NCAA basketball,” Hayley said. “It is still televised, very professional, but not at the top level yet.”
In his first full year on the K&N he had some mechanical struggles and some growing pains. However, he did well enough to finish second in the series’ rookie of the year rankings and seventh in its overall standings.
“It was a tough year, but I learned a lot about how to car control and how to deal with these cars,” Hayley said.
He did well enough to capture the eye of NASCAR and he was selected to the Next 9 program last year. These are the nine drivers NASCAR believes will be the faces of the future in 2020.
“Through Next 9 I got to meet some of the top drivers like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and the top drivers of NASCAR,” Hayley said. “It was a great experience… Jeff Gordon was my idol since I was growing up.”
He admitted it is tough for Canadians to get into the sport because NASCAR doesn’t have the popularity here as it does in the United States.
“My win at Daytona was for Canadians,” he said. “I am the first Canadian to win any race in Daytona. There are not a lot of Canadians who get a chance to get to Daytona. It was an honour to do that.”
He laughed when asked if racing is about being an athlete or being in a machine.
“I have heard that many times,” Hayley said with a smile. “I remember being in Grade 5 or 6 at Red Deer Lake School and we were doing these autobiographies and I said my favourite sport is NASCAR. One of the students said: ‘You don’t have to be an athlete to do that…”
He said driving a 3,000-pound car with 700 horsepower under the hood for three hours, is “mentally and physically taxing. Turning a wheel may seem simple on the road, but when you are doing 170 miles per hour, you have to be fit… There is a lot more to it than driving in circles.”
His athleticism is on display at Red Deer Lake School.
He was the school’s Athlete of the Year as a Grade 9 student and he also plays elite club volleyball.
Hayley not only has to be a mentally sharp athlete to race at the NASCAR level, but also a sharp accountant. He said it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to compete in the circuit. His major sponsor is Cabinets by Hayley, which is owned by his father, Darrell. He also gets support from his grandfather Noel Hayley. However, the Hayleys will be beating the bushes for sponsors in an effort to beat the Busches in the future.
“I am getting to the point where I need more corporate partners to help me get to the next level,” he said. “We currently have a PR and sponsorship manager, but it’s a hard business.”
He stressed winning is a team effort, from the driver to the people in the pits to his sponsors.
“Whenever I do interviews it is always ‘We’,” Hayley said.
He has done plenty of interviews since Feb. 20, from CBC Radio, the Breakfast Show, to TSN Radio in Toronto.
Hayley is a Grade 11 student at Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary, which has programs allowing students to pursue sports, such as NASCAR, while getting an Alberta education.
Although Hayley has been driving on the track since he was 10, as a 16-year-old he just got his driver’s licence last fall.
“I am a pretty good driver,” he said with a laugh. “I get my need for speed out on the track and not on the road. My dad has always told me if I ever get a speeding ticket, it is going to be bad.”
Hayley raced in Phoenix on Saturday where he finished second behind teammate Greg Pursley.
For more information about Hayley go to www.cameronhayley.com