Look at a list of drivers competing in NASCAR’s three national series and you’ll soon notice why Cameron Hayley is unique.
Most hail from the United States with a few exceptions. Daniel Suarez and Carlos Contreras are from Mexico and primarily compete in the Xfinity Series, but when it comes to drivers that call Canada home, only three drivers can make that claim.
One of those is Hayley.
While Mario Gosselin and Derek White race in Xfinity, Hayley, a native of Calgary, Alberta, is the only Canadian competing in the Camping World Truck Series.
Hayley, 18, is in his rookie season in the Truck series, having driven the No. 13 Toyota for ThorSport Racing in the first four races of the year.
“Obviously we don’t have almost any drivers coming up from Canada into the national series,” Hayley told media Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It was difficult for me coming up, moving up through the ranks.”
Hayley said his fortunes began to change when he won the 2013 K&N Pro Series’ UNOH Battle at the Beach in Daytona. Driving for Gene Price, Hayley was one of six Canadians in the race that also featured Kyle Larson, John Hunter Nemechek and Ben Kennedy.
Hayley won on a last-lap pass in Turn 4 as he banged against the door of Gray Gaulding crossing the finish line. It was the only lap he led. Combine the win with a move to the K&N Pro East Series and people started to know who the Canadian driver was.
In June of that year, Hayley was announced as a member of the 2013-14 NASCAR Next class, which included Suarez, Dylan Kwasniewski, Kennedy, Brett Moffitt, Ryan Gifford and Gaulding.
“It does seem like a long time ago now,” said Hayley, who recently moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where ThorSport Racing is headquartered. “I mean, it was only two years ago, but when it comes down to it – I’ve done so much since then. I’ve done so many races since then that it seems like a long time ago for sure.”
Now Hayley is in a prime position to make his name even more recognizable.
Through four races, Hayley’s best finish came last week at Kansas Speedway. He claimed fifth position for his first top five in seven CWTS races. Since finishing 23rd at Daytona International Speedway due to a wreck, Hayley has steadily improved, finishing 14th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and 11th at Martinsville Speedway.
All four races were Hayley’s first at those tracks and Friday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will continue that trend.
“Adjusting to all the different tracks and having all the tracks being new has definitely been difficult, but ThorSport has given me great trucks week in and week out,” Hayley said. “We’ve had great trucks and had some bad luck, and I think Charlotte is going to be another one where I have lots to learn, but I think we have a great truck here and can do well.”
It also helps to have two veteran teammates, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, in the ThorSport Racing stable.
Crafton, a native of Tulare, Calif., is the two-time defending series champion, and Sauter, a native of Necedah, Wisc., is a 10-time Truck race winner.
“I don’t really know him, he’s a rookie new to the deal – but I think he’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders,” Sauter said. “I see him doing things that maybe necessarily don’t see from a lot of rookie drivers and I think he’s taking care of his equipment and showing speed at the same time.”
Said Hayley: “I can study race tapes, videos all I want, but until to you talk to a driver you don’t really know a first-hand account of what’s happening,” Hayley said. “I haven’t been quite quick enough to run up beside them during races yet, but I think we’re getting there, and I think I can learn a lot from that as well.”