Two breakout stars emerged from the Daytona Prototype ranks in 2013. The first, Jordan Taylor, went on to win the Grand-Am Rolex DP title with teammate Max Angelelli. The second, Dane Cameron, led a brand-new team from the back of the pack to become a threat for poles and wins by mid-season.
As RACER revealed on Saturday, the popular Team Sahlen program Cameron joined in 2012 will be stepping down from DP competition next season, opting for a to-be-named series below the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
With the late decision by Team Sahlen to withdraw ” just as Cameron was preparing for a run at the Prototype title ” many of the plum drives within the TUDOR Championship have been taken, narrowing the young American’s range of opportunities with the start of the season less than 80 days away.
?The last two years with Team Sahlen have been really good for me,? Cameron told RACER. ?First with the Mazda RX-8 Rolex GT program in 2012, and then when we continued with the Daytona Prototypes into 2013. I’m incredibly appreciative of the opportunity they gave me, and it was the first time I’ve had that kind of consistency with a team.
?We essentially changed entire teams from the GT program when we went to DP. It was great to be part of forming the new team and to work with Katie Crawford, Wayne and Will Nonnamaker and everyone who turned the DP program into a serious contender so quickly. I’m obviously sad we won’t get to continue what we built on, and the news came in very late in the day. For me, next steps will be to find another opportunity in the series because that’s where I want to stay.?
The 25-year-old Georgia resident was one of motor racing’s best kept secrets, but after his body of work with the Sahlen operation in Grand-Am, the former open-wheel standout has enjoyed a newfound respect among his Rolex Series peers.
The California native worked his way up what’s now known as the Mazda Road To Indy open-wheel ladder, winning the 2007 Pro Mazda championship before graduating to the Mazda Atlantic Series. Like many young drivers who were lost in 2008’s IndyCar/Champ Car unification process, Cameron followed the opportunities wherever they were offered, and it took some time to latch onto a stable program, eventually shifting his attention to sports cars in 2009.
Select DP and GT starts through the 2010 season gave a glimpse of what he was capable of delivering, and with a full-season shot driving for Patrick Dempsey’s Rolex GT team, Cameron took fourth in the 2011 standings with teammate James Gue. Cameron scored his first Rolex Series win with Sahlen teammate Wayne Nonnamaker in 2012, finishing sixth in points, and scored two DP poles in 2013, along with leading multiple races. Cameron also added drives in the ALMS PC class on non-conflicting weekends late in the season, helping PR1/Mathiasen’s Mike Guasch earn the Drivers’ championship.
The experience of working to build the DP program from scratch and guest drives in PC saw Cameron’s stick rise throughout the year, and he hopes to bring his variety of skills to a team somewhere within the four TUDOR Championship classes.
?At this point, ideally, it would be great to make another step forward by staying in a prototype car, to run up front in a DP or P2 car, or PC,? he said. ?And I also have experience in GT cars, so I think I’ve shown I can race in anything. The only class I haven’t had a chance to race is GT Le Mans; I think some of the best drivers in the world are racing there, and I’d love to be considered for something if there’s a chance. Most of all, I hope can be an asset for a team. At the end of the day, there’s 100 guys that can do the lap time. In sports car racing, it’s about being the total package.
?It was huge to learn what’s needed to succeed in a DP car. Being part of developing a program from scratch with Katie Crawford and the Nonnamakers was a huge learning experience. The way I look at it was it was a chance to lead a team. It wasn’t a case of jumping into a fully sorted car where all I had to do was drive. I had to manage my expectations, had to work on developing the car, the setup, and everything else. Our best results were two fourths, which isn’t overwhelming, but looking at where we started as a new program in January, I’m proud of what we achieved.?
Cameron’s only had a few days to start his search or a new drive, and has received a few interesting calls so far. Despite not having anything concrete, he’ll head to next weekend’s test at Sebring, and then to Daytona the following week to be present if any teams are interested in his services.