DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. and CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Performance Motorsports Network audio — Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America photo —
A month ago, Cameron Hayley came on Motorsports Madness unsure of what he would be doing in 2015 and searching for any possible opportunity.
Now? He’s content, smiling and having the time of his life.
The 18-year-old Canadian was overjoyed Thursday afternoon after finally being able to take laps on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, in advance of what will be just his fourth start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday night.
“There is a lot of stuff going on out there! That was way fun,” Hayley said after his first run Thursday. “There is not a single thing in the world that could be more fun than this right now.”
It was understandably fun for the young NASCAR Next alumni, who was second-fastest in final practice with the help of his ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter. But the fun didn’t start on the sands of Daytona Beach — it began about two weeks ago when Hayley inked a deal to race for the Sandusky, Ohio-based team full-time in 2015.
After finishing second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points standings in 2014 to then-teammate at Turner Scott Motorsports, Ben Rhodes, Hayley says he is ready to make the step to the national ranks and thankful for the opportunity to do so this soon in his young career — even if the deal came together a little late.
“It was a crazy offseason, I can’t even begin to explain how many emotions went into it,” Hayley said on Monday night’s episode of Motorsports Madness. “To end up running with ThorSport in a full-time Truck ride — that’s been my dream ever since I was little and now that it’s finally happening, it’s so amazing.”
“It just came down to Duke and Rhonda Thorson at ThorSport. I ran three Truck races last year. I feel like I did the best I could in them. Came out with some good finishes. They really just came to me — they were happy with the way I raced — and it happened they needed a driver and I was there to come into the spot.”
Hayley now, after debuting in karts and coming through both halves of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, will make the biggest step of his young career in Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 — and couldn’t be more ready to tackle the 2.5-mile mammoth in race trim as opposed to practice.
“I’m really excited to be racing at Daytona for the first time,” Hayley expressed again. “The opportunity to work with such vast talent at ThorSport Racing is a dream come true for me. I know I’ll lean heavily on my crew chief Jeff Hensley, who has a long history in this sport, and I’m sure I will rely on my teammates Matt (Crafton) and Johnny (Sauter) as well. They both have had a lot of success at Daytona and any advice they can give me will be beneficial.”
“Our goal is to learn as much as we can in every practice and see what we can do to get a good finish for the No. 13 Cabinets by Hayley team Friday night.”
Granted, it’s not his first time racing at DIS — the young gun grabbed the win on the 0.4-mile short track built on the backstretch during last year’s UNOH Battle at the Beach — but now, in the draft, Hayley knows it’s a whole new ballgame.
“I know I’m technically a winner already at Daytona, but now to be on the 2.5-mile track — I feel like I’ve already been on it to be honest. I’ve been studying up for months and months now and it’s going to be tough. I’m going from my first mile-and-a-half (Texas in November) to my first superspeedway, so (it’s been) lots of learning in the last little bit but hopefully it’s going to be a really good start this year.”
The start has begun. The energy is there. The passion is fueled.
How do we know? Hayley said it himself, in six simple words.”
“I’m having the time of my life.”
Listen in to an extended cut of Race Chaser Online’s interview with Cameron Hayley from Monday night’s episode of Motorsports Madness below: