Countdown to the Showdown: Austin Cameron spotlight DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2003) -- Austin Cameron's championship chase took a detour earlier this year, when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. Cameron missed four events...
Countdown to the Showdown: Austin Cameron spotlight
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2003) -- Austin Cameron's championship chase took a detour earlier this year, when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. Cameron missed four events on the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series schedule while undergoing treatment and returned to the series in July. Despite his successful return behind the wheel of the No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hoses Chevrolet, Cameron knew his title chances were gone.
Now, his focus is on winning races and making a strong showing in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in November.
"The inaugural event means a lot," the 26-year-old El Cajon, Calif., competitor said. "There should be some great competition there. I have no doubt that the Busch North drivers are going to be really tough. I'm really excited to race all those guys. I think it's kind of like the battle of the best. I think the winner will earn a lot of respect."
The Toyota All-Star Showdown is an invitation-only non-points event. Drivers will be invited based on their finish in the 2003 point standings for their respective series. The top 15 drivers in the two NASCAR Grand National series -- the Winston West and the Busch North -- will be invited to participate.
Getting into the top 15 of the standings to qualify for the showdown gave Cameron something to focus on initially upon his return to competition.
"It has been the shift of our focus," Cameron said. "We're really looking forward to it."
After slipping as far back as 22nd in the point standings in June, Cameron quickly worked his way back into the top 15 -- winning two of four races since his return.
"We're 15th now," he said. "We're on the cut, but as long as we race the rest of the races, we shouldn't have any problem."
In addition to focusing on the showdown, Cameron wants to keep his team owner, Bill McAnally, in the running for the owners' championship in the Winston West Series.
"It is still within reach to get the car owner's championship for Bill and for NAPA," Cameron said. "We're only 71 points out in car owner points. That's tough to make up, but we made up a lot of ground last year."
Cameron says winning McAnally his fourth championship as a car owner in the series would be his way of paying him back for keeping the race car available for his return. McAnally kept the No. 16 Chevrolet on track during Cameron's absence with substitute drivers including 2002 Winston West Series champion Eric Norris, C.T. Hellemund and Jeff Jefferson.
"We've got three more races left and my approach is to win every single race out there," Cameron said. "I want to go out there and win everything. I want to dominate everything I can, because although we are not racing for a driver's championship, we are thinking about the possibility of getting the owner's championship. That would be awesome for NAPA and for Bill -- for holding the seat open for me."
In addition to the 30 Grand National teams that will participate in the Toyota All-Star Showdown, 40 teams from the NASCAR Elite Division will take part. The top 10 drivers in each of the four series in that division will compete at Irwindale in a similar format.
The three-day event begins with practice on Thursday, Nov. 6. Teams return for another practice session on Friday, Nov. 7, along with twin 50-lap qualifying races for both divisions. The feature races will be held Saturday, Nov. 8.