Somewhere in an alternate universe, Dane Cameron is an NTT IndyCar Series champion whose raw speed and technical expertise has made the American one of open-wheel racing’s brightest stars.
At 33, the son of race car mechanic and engineer Ricky Cameron has waited almost half a lifetime — 14 years, to be precise — to get his first run in an IndyCar after starring as a championship-winning Road to Indy talent in the latter half of the 2000s.
In this universe, he was one of a few major talents like John Edwards, Jonathan Summerton, and Jonathan Bomarito who fell through the cracks when Champ Car and IndyCar blended into one series, but the loss has served sports car teams rather well as Cameron has earned major titles for three different programs.
Despite missing out on a long IndyCar career, the pride of Northern California said after climbing from the No. 3 Team Penske Chevy today at Sebring International Raceway, it was worth the wait to sample what might have been.
“I didn’t think I was gonna have to wait that long to sample an IndyCar for the first time!” Cameron told RACER with a laugh. “And these guys were giving me a hard time that I showed up almost 15 years late for the job. Makes me feel a little bit old, but it was a really cool opportunity and I was so happy to do it. Porsche gave their blessing for it and I’m thankful for the Team Penske boys for let me definitely take care of a bucket list item.
“For myself, there’s a lot of memories from being a kid watching IndyCar races on the hillside at Laguna Seca, so something I always wanted to do was drive one. I was starting to think it might not ever happen, so I’m really happy I got a chance to do it, and it was a lot of fun. To drive one of Roger’s IndyCars is pretty special for anybody.”
Cameron completed 76 laps on Wednesday in friendly ambient conditions, posting the second-fastest unofficial tour of the day at 52.841s, 0.0714s behind reigning Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy and 0.4811s ahead of Foyt’s Tatiana Calderon.
Signed for a second stint with Penske after being part of its factory Acura IMSA DPi program from 2018-2020, Cameron’s new role is to help Penske Porsche Motorsports develop the German brand’s new 2023 hybrid LMDh prototype into a winner.
He’ll also keep somewhat busy between LMDh tests with a run in the FIA World Endurance Championship for Penske in the LMP2 class. And with an open January date on his calendar, sprinting down to Sebring to lend his considerable testing and technical feedback to The Captain’s IndyCar program was a perfect chance to contribute in a new area.
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) January 18, 2022
“It’s going to be a quieter year with not a huge amount of race events, so when they had a need on some test list items to get through, and knowing how compact the timeline is for Roger’s IndyCar drivers, everybody decided to let me have a go,” Cameron said.
“I’m obviously committed to the LMDh Porsche program and that’s where most of my work will be done in development this year, but I’ve always said to the Penske team that I’m always happy to help with anything if you guys need me somewhere else in the building — if you think I’m useful, I’m happy to do it. So they had a pretty big list of test items they wanted to try to get through, and I felt like we got through all that stuff. And they all seemed pretty happy with everything they got out of it.
“That was kind of my main goal, just to just enjoy the day, because more likely than not, it’s the only day I’ll probably ever get in an IndyCar. So I enjoyed it, maximized it, and make sure the team got everything they wanted.”
For those who watched Cameron give glimpses of supreme talent during his junior open-wheel days like we’ve seen in recent years with Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, and Kyle Kirkwood, the IndyCar test with Penske might be a bit bittersweet — happiness for the opportunity he received mixed with a case of “what could have been” if fortunes fell in a different way. From his perspective, there’s no sense of loss or frustration for how his racing career has gone.
“I don’t have any regrets or anything,” he said. “I changed directions when I was younger and the choice to go sports car racing, I’m 100-percent happy with. But I would have been a little sad to get to the end of my career without driving an IndyCar at least once, so I’m happy I got to do that.”