Getting a shot at NASCAR’s elite levels is difficult for anyone. And if you’re Canadian, you come to the table with the short stack almost every time. Cameron Hayley of Calgary, AB, has gone “all in” a number of times throughout his young racing career, with his combination of personality and talent dealing him closer to a royal flush.
The 19-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in his first full season behind the wheel of a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series truck, posting top-fives at Pocono, Gateway, Kansas and Martinsville, and now sits sixth in points with a realistic shot at a top-five finish in the championship (three events remain as of press time).
Cameron is thrilled with the performance of his team this year. “Being a rookie, at the start of the season I had a goal of being in the top 10,” he says. “But as we got rolling in the season and we ran well, I changed it to a goal of being in the top five, and we’re almost there.”
While the season as a whole has been spectacular for Cameron, one of his best hands all year was dealt at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the series’ only stop in Canada, but unfortunately it turned into a “bad beat.”
“We led for a while, and if the yellows had flown our way I think we had a shot to win,” he recalls. “We didn’t get the caution when we needed it, and then we got taken out by another driver, which damaged the truck. Still, it was a great afternoon, especially in front of the Canadian fans.”
Hayley’s racing career began as a youngster in go karts before he moved up to Legends and Super Late Models where he travelled to parts of the northwest and central parts of the U.S., as well as the NPP Late Model Tour in Canada. In 2011, at age 15, he made his K&N West Series debut, finishing seventh in 2012 and second in 2013, including a win at All-American Speedway. In 2014, Hayley headed east to take on the K&N East tour in a Turner Scott Motorsports ride, and finished second in points to teammate Ben Rhodes while posting five runner-up finishes. Toward the end of ’14, he made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut on home soil at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, before hitting his card on the river.
Over the past 15 years a number of Canadian drivers have had a shot at NASCAR in the U.S., including D.J. Kennington, Pete Shepherd and J.R. Fitzpatrick, but all of them were either short on funding and/or equipment when it came to a full-time competitive schedule. Others like Ron Fellows, Patrick Carpientier and Alex Tagliani were handed the keys to solid equipment in road course starts, but none came close competing for a full season.
“Those guys before me were all great race car drivers, and that’s why I feel so fortunate for this opportunity,” beams Hayley. “The folks from ThorSport Racing approached me about driving for them in 2015. They said they had been watching me, and they are a team with championship-winning equipment.”
Cabinets by Hayley, a business owned by Cameron’s father, is one of the main sponsors on the black and white No. 13 Toyota Tundra along with the team’s other major backer, the Carolina Nut Company.
With the deal also came a pair of experienced teammates. “Getting to race on the same team as Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton has been awesome! Honestly, when it comes to the setup of the trucks, we all drive so differently that we don’t have a lot in common, but they have helped me in terms of general experience, as well as offering up some tips when we have gone to a place that I’ve never raced at before.”
As for the future, Hayley admits to not having anything solid in place for 2016. “We’re working on it. I think I need another season in the truck, and would love to do that here, at ThorSport Racing. Ultimately, like everyone else, I want to eventually race in the Sprint Cup Series. That’s been my dream since I was a kid.”
Cameron’s youth makes him very marketable, and he has a bona fide chance to improve on the track and create his own Canadian NASCAR legacy. If he can hit a couple of flops, Cameron Hayley might be racing in the final table on your television on Sundays in a couple of years.