As Cameron Bolin was leaving Greenville-Pickens Speedway on the final race of the 2019 season, he turned to this dad and said it would be "dang cool" if he could finish 2020 as track champion.
Three wins and 15 top-five finishes later, Bolin’s premonition came true, and he was able to put his name on the wall of champions at the South Carolina track where he’s been racing for three years.
At 15 years old on championship night, Bolin is the youngest late model track champion in the history of Greenville-Pickens, a NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series sanctioned half-mile paved track in Easley, South Carolina.
"It’s really surreal," Bolin said. "I’d never thought about it that way until someone did mention that I was the youngest name on the wall at Greenville at 15. That’s cool within itself. Your name is there for good with the Wall of Fame."
Bolin was able to share his track championship with the people who helped him get his start in racing. Most nights in the race shop there are three generations of Bolins working on the car – Cameron, his dad, Brad, and his grandfather, Roddey.
Roddey Bolin raced dirt late models all around North and South Carolina for nearly 30 years. When Cameron started getting into the sport, Roddey backed off his own driving to be the youngest Bolin’s crew chief.
Brad Bolin never drove himself, but he was also a crew member on Roddey’s team.
The three started working as a trio when Cameron was five years old. He moved up to racing bandoleros at tracks near his home in York, South Carolina, eventually branching out to races across the country.
Cameron won a national championship in bandoleros in 2017 when he was 12 years old.
The next year they gave late models a try at Greenville. While the first race went without a hitch – he finished second – the second race he was caught up in a crash and totaled the car.
"Here we are in May of 2018 and we had to take a step away running on the limited budget that we do. We had to save the money up to buy a new car," Cameron said.
The team was only able to race one more time that year at the end of September.
The next year was Cameron’s first full season, and he learned a lot that he took into 2020. The start of his championship run wasn’t smooth sailing, though.
"We got off to a slow start. Our first night out we qualified decent but just didn’t really have the speed we needed to have in the races and stuff like that," he said. "We couldn’t put a whole night together. We finally hit on something about the fifth race and we really started putting some solid runs together."
Cameron’s first win came in August when he finished a race third, but was given the victory after the top two finishers were both disqualified.
A week later he got his first on-track win.
"We took a lot of notes. Taking what we did learn in 2019 and building on it and what we learned at the start of 2020 through struggles and through challenges," Cameron said. "I think we took every week as another page and once we got to about August when we won our first race we had it down to a T, so that was really big."
Through the struggles and triumphs, the Bolins stuck together and kept the team a family. Cameron’s two best friends come to help every weekend, and he has uncles and cousins who also pitch in.
Roddey’s cousin, Scott, who helped the eldest Bolin start the race team in 1978, started helping again in 2019, and served as crew chief for Cameron while Roddey was spotter for one race in 2020.
"That was cool getting to see them rekindle their old times through my racing," Cameron said.
Cameron said he loves that his team is a family, and he has his grandfather to go to for help.
"I bank on my pawpaw a lot just for advice and just through all his years of what he’s seen and stuff like that," he said. "It’s really cool that we can talk about how I need to be better in some ways and how I can slow down in others. But it’s really special because he is my role model and here we are ultimately living out the same dream in a way."
It’s possible Cameron will try to repeat his track title at Greenville this upcoming season, but the Bolins also plan to travel around to try to make a run at the South Carolina championship. He finished second in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series South Carolina title race in 2020 by 42 points. He’s also always wanted to race at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina, so the hope is to run a few races there, as well.
Cameron may be just 16 years old, but he already knows racing is what he wants to do for a long time.
"I’m ate up with it, honestly. It’s an addiction," he said.
"There’s a picture of me and my grandpa in Victory Lane and I’m six months old. Racing is all I know. I can’t get through a conversation without relating it to racing. It’s all I want to do."