MONROE — Talk about your great graduation presents.
Seventeen-year-old Cameron Hayley graduated from Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary, Alberta, on Thursday night, traveled to Monroe’s Evergreen Speedway and qualified with a track-record fast time on Friday, and then on Saturday night he capped a remarkable weekend with a victory in the third-annual NASCAR Summer Showdown for Super Late Models.
Hayley, starting from the pole in his No. 24 car, led throughout and took the checkered flag by 0.634 seconds ahead of runner-up Garrett Evans of East Wenatchee on a night of broken clouds and steady wind, but thankfully no rain. An estimated crowd of 5,000 racing fans watched the event.
The boyish Hayley celebrated by climbing from his car and standing on the window frame, grinning broadly and thrusting both fists skyward. His reward was the $20,000 first-place prize, plus another $1,000 for being the top qualifier.
The race “was a hard one,” Hayley said. “There were guys (behind) running harder and harder and harder.”
There was a little bit of drama in the late minutes when a collision on the front straightaway brought out the yellow flag with five laps to go. Hayley, who narrowly avoided the damage just in front of him, then had to get through one final re-start — by his choice, he started from the outside — and he was able to nab the lead and hold it through five laps of green to the finish.
“I didn’t want to see that, but that’s racing and we had the car to (hold on to the checkered flag),” Hayley said.
Evans, who steadily worked his way to the front throughout the night, pulled ahead of Pete Harding from Langley, B.C., on the final re-start and shadowed Hayley to the checkered flag. But the youngster’s car was simply too strong.
“(The car) was amazing,” Hayley said. “That thing was just unreal tonight.”
At the outset, Hayley shot to the front and then held off a succession of challengers through the entire 200-lap race. He would build a modest lead, but on every yellow flag — and there were six, including two with red flags to clear the track — he had to win a dash down the straightaway to hold his place into the first turn.
Owen Riddle from Naches was an early challenger, but then his car faded. Harding then put on the pressure, though Naima Lang from Lynnwood made a late challenge, too. And then on the final restart it was Evans who was big in Hayley’s rear-view mirror.
Hayley, who broke the track record with a time of 20.002 (114 mph) in qualifying, was not the youngest racer in the 36-car starting field. That was 16-year-old Nicole Behar from Otis Orchards, the only female to qualify for the final.
Ron Eaton of Tacoma, a longtime driver at Evergreen Speedway, was forced out of the race with about 60 laps to go due to a rear-end problem with his car.
The race went to yellow with about 40 laps to go due to a life-threatening situation in the pit area. As the drivers slowed, an aid car with lights flashing left the pit area and headed to a nearby hospital.
In the evening’s preliminary race, Eddie Secord of Oak Hills, Calif., moved ahead of Toby Becker from Highland, Calif., in the late laps for a victory in the Pro 4 main. Bud Rumsey of Prosser finished second, also slipping ahead of Becker in the final laps.