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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Cameron Hayley spent most of the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season wondering if the pressure was starting to get to him.
As a member of NASCAR's Next9 program – highlighting rising stars climbing the NASCAR national ranks – Hayley's season was highlighted by just five top-5 finishes in 15 races. With other Next9 drivers like Corey LaJoie, Dylan Kwasniewski and Kyle Larson winning races and championships, Hayley wasn't sure he belonged in such accomplished company.
But the native of Calgary, Alberta, shrugged off the pressure to win the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach on the short track at Daytona International Speedway last week in his first start after joining Gene Price Motorsports in the off season.
Hayley hopes to keep the momentum rolling this week, as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West opens its 2013 season at Phoenix International Raceway with the Talking Stick Resort 60 on Saturday, March 2. Hayley’s best finish in three series starts at the one-mile track in the Valley of the Sun was fifth, last November.
“It was hard being in the Next9 last year and watching all those guys around you when you're not getting wins,” said Hayley, who replaced Kwasniewski this season at GPM. “It was a time where it did hit me that I'm replacing Dylan Kwasniewski, the K&N Pro Series West champion last year. That sort of put pressure on me early. But then I was like, I need to forget about this. He's gone, I'm in and I just need to focus on making my race career better and making the most of what I have.
“The pressure was there at first, but now it's just pretty much the pressure I put on myself.”
It's not been an easy path to NASCAR's touring ranks for Hayley, particularly coming out of Western Canada. The 16-year-old in his sophomore season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West got an early start in racing thanks to his godfather.
“When I was four years old, I got my first go-kart,” Hayley said. “It was just this tiny little thing, and my dad put me in it for the first time and he was scared to death. He didn't know if I knew where the brake and gas were. That's kind of how my career started.
“We decided to come down here and hopefully make a name for myself.”
A win at Daytona this year, coupled with a championship-caliber run in the K&N Pro Series West could certainly do that.
|Race:||Talking Stick Resort 60|
|Place:||Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.|
|Date:||Saturday, March 2|
|Time:||5:30 p.m. MT|
|Radio Schedule:||NASCAR Home Tracks Radio presented by Speed51 live on www.nascarhometracks.com|
|Track Layout:||1-mile paved oval|
|2011 Winner:||David Mayhew|
|2011 Polesitter:||David Mayhew|
|Event Schedule:||Thursday: Practice 4:35-5:25 p.m. Friday: Final Practice 9-9:50 a.m. Saturday: Qualifying 9 a.m.|
|Track PR Contact:||Jennifer Jepson (623) 463-5400 email@example.com|
|NASCAR IMC Contact:||Kevin W. Green (661) 392-8543 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @KevinW_Green|
The Race: This event is the 2013 season opener for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. It is the first of two series visits to PIR this year. The series will conclude its season at PIR in November.
The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 60 laps.
The Track: PIR is a one-mile superspeedway with 10 to 11 degrees banking between Turns 1 and 2; 10 to 11 degrees banking at the apex of the dog-leg; and 8 to 9 degrees banking in Turn 4. This will be the 31st stand-alone Phoenix race for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
The Records: Qualifying: Greg Pursley, Nov. 12, 2011, 133.859 mph, 26.894 sec.; Race: To be established at this distance.
PHOENIX RACE NOTES
Big NASCAR weekend at PIR: The Talking Stick Resort 60 is part of a big NASCAR weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Mexico’s NASCAR Toyota Series will be featured in its inaugural visit to PIR with an event on Friday night. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be in action on Saturday afternoon, prior to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will compete on Sunday.
New look for championship team: The Ford of last year’s championship team from Gene Price Motorsports features a new look as Cameron Hayley replaces Dylan Kwasniewski behind the wheel. The car number is changing from 03 to 24 and it will now being adorned with Cabinets by Hayley sponsorship.
Westward move: Two Bill McAnally Racing drivers will be making their debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at PIR, after competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. BMR announced last month that Sergio Pen͂a will drive the No. 16 NAPA Toyota this season, following three years of competing in the East. Brandon McReynolds, who ran eight K&N East races during the past two seasons, will drive BMR’s No. 20 NAPA Filters Toyota at Phoenix.
Canadian drivers at PIR: Canada will again have strong representation at Phoenix. The entry list includes series veterans Carl Harr and his son, Daryl, who hail from Edmonton, Alberta; Hayley of Calgary, Alberta; DJ Kennington of St. Thomas, Ontario, the two-time champion of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1; Ronnie Jay of Victoria, British Columbia; Jamie Krzysik of Grand Prairie, Alberta; Kelly Admiraal of Edmonton, Alberta; and Jack Chisholm of Cranbrook, British Columbia.
Traveling cross country: Fifteen-year-old Gray Gaulding will be making the cross-country trek to compete in the Talking Stick Resort 60, one of several NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events he is scheduled to enter this year. The Virginia native is set to run the full schedule in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this season, competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.
History: This marks the 10th time for Phoenix International Raceway to host the season opener for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The series kicked off its season at PIR for seven straight years from 2000 to 2006. And Phoenix has marked the first series race of the season the past two years.
LAST TIME OUT: UNOH Battle At The Beach
Strong showing from the West: In addition to Cameron Hayley winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series portion of the UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 19, several other drivers from the K&N West came away from the inaugural event with a strong top 10 showing. Greg Pursley led 127 of 155 laps and finished ninth, despite getting turned around. Michael Self led 27 laps late in the event and finished eighth, after suffering a similar fate. Derek Thorn battled Pursley for the top spot through much of the event before ending up sixth.
NEXT TIME OUT: Stockton
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will head to Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway for action on the historic quarter-mile oval on May 4. Dylan Kwasniewski, who went on to win the series championship, captured the pole and won the race during last year’s visit to Stockton.