Podcast: Dane Cameron takes practical path to sports car stardom

Courtesy of IMSA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dane Cameron began his racing career in single-seater open-cockpit cars on a path toward the IndyCar Series.

But when funding dried up in the Formula Atlantic Series and the pathway to Indy fizzled, Cameron got practical about his passion.

“All I really wanted to do was to earn a living being a race car driver, I wasn’t too fussed on what shape the car was or where it was racing,” Cameron said on the latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast. “I wanted someone to pay me to drive a race car.”

With a minimum of two drivers for its top rides, sports cars inherently offered more opportunities. So about a decade ago, Cameron, 31, made the switch to a relatively unfamiliar form of racing.

FAST FRIENDS: Champions Montoya, Cameron get along on, off track

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The lack of experience made little difference for Cameron, who quickly excelled into a full-time Daytona Prototype ride after racing for various teams in the Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series over a few years.

Since the series merged in 2014, Cameron has become the first three-time champion of the IMSA WeatherTech Series. He won a GTD title with Turner Motorsport in 2014 and a DP championship with Action Express Racing in ’16.

Last year, he teamed with Juan Pablo Montoya to win his second title in IMSA’s premier series. The Team Penske duo will enter this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in search of its first endurance victory.

It’s validation that Cameron’s sports car gambit has succeeded.

“I knew I could go here and commit early, and it might take a year or two or three, but it gives me a better shot at a long career, which is what I wanted,” he said. “It took a couple of years to work your way through some of the higher teams to build a network takes a little time of meeting people to trust you and know you aren’t going to bounce off guys or off fences.

“You definitely feel you have to put in your time and earn your stripes to earn the opportunities you really want at the top teams.”

Though NASCAR wasn’t an opportunity for Cameron, he actually is from an area known for a Cup race, having grown up just a few miles from Sonoma Raceway.

But though Jeff Gordon started in nearby Vallejo, and other Cup drivers (such as Kyle Larson) progressed to stock cars from the dirt tracks of northern California, the appeal sprint cars didn’t resonate. Cameron’s family raced small formula cars for a living, so he trained on road courses under his father’s guidance.

“It just made the most sense at the time; who knows what would have been different if my dad had known more about circle track racing than road course racing,” he said. “You’re just a product of your environment, and that was mine. I did want to go to IndyCar and Champ Car because I grew up around it. I wanted to get there but never quite did.”

The Rolex 24 will offer the chance to race with some of the biggest names in IndyCar. Besides Montoya (who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and 2015), Team Penske’s lineup also includes former Indy winners Alexander Rossi, Helio Castoneves and Simon Pagenaud.

“They have such a reputation and success in formulas that are more mainstream than IMSA is, so it’s cool to have those guys around and the draw and the people they bring to the races is not to be underestimated for sure,” Cameron said. “It’s cool to share a car with those guys. When the program is over, it’ll be cool to think back when you’re done racing that you got to share cars and time with those guys who have achieved so much success and will be hall of fame and legendary type guys in the future.

“It’s cool to share a car with those guys and prove not only to yourself but to everybody else that you have the caliber and pace to run with the best guys in the world and best there ever were. It’s hard to argue with the caliber of people we have. It’s a special crowd. There’s a lot of bling and ring.”

Other topics discussed by Cameron on the NASCAR on NBC Podcast:

–On being the defending DPI series champion;

–Why the Rolex 24 is so difficult to win (“it’s like running qualifying laps for 24 hours”);

–His working relationship with Juan Pablo Montoya;

–Whether he’d like to race in another series for Penske;

–His family connections in IMSA.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking the embed above or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.