Kyle Busch will lead off the start of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200
18-year-old Canadian rounds out powerful ThorSport team CONCORD, N.C. -- In the dead of winter a little more than two years ago, Cameron Hayley took the route of many so-called "snow birds" from his home country of Canada to ride out the harsh February days in the far more temperate climate of Florida. This particular trip, though, wasn't simply a search for warmer weather. It also managed to launch his spring-loaded NASCAR career. Hayley, an 18-year-old driver from Calgary, Alberta, found pay dirt against top-flight short-track talent that February at Daytona International Speedway , claiming the checkered flag in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series portion of the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach tripleheader in 2013. He added his name to a distinguished list of winners, with an up-and-coming Kyle Larson prevailing in the Whelen All-American Series race and former Sprint Cup Series winner Steve Park scoring a resurgent victory in the Whelen Modified Tour event. "It does seem like a long time ago now," Hayley said Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "I mean, it was only two years ago, but when it comes down to it -- I've done so much since then." Though the race was an exhibition that paid out no points toward the K&N championship, it helped elevate the stature of an otherwise little-known talent from the Great White North . Fast forward, and Hayley's name takes its place on another list altogether -- as a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with ThorSport Racing, the championship team the last two seasons. "I think that's kind of what put me on the map with everybody," Hayley said. "Everyone started knowing my name after that and obviously moving to the K&N East Series last year it kind of got me down into the North Carolina , Charlotte-area and I guess people started to know my name more after that. It was kind of that Battle of the Beach when that really sparked people knowing me more." A pair of runner-up finishes in the K&N Series' title hunt the last two years helped that cause. So did his first ventures into the Camping World Truck Series, where he showed speed and landed two top-10s in his first three starts last season. After attracting the eye of team owner Duke Thorson and landing a seat in ThorSport's third truck alongside veteran teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter , Hayley has shown steady growth, even while visiting tracks for the first time in his national series career. Despite the unfamiliarity, Hayley has improved his finishing position each week, capped by last weekend's fifth-place effort at Kansas Speedway . More improvement is the target again at Charlotte, site of Friday night's NC Education Lottery 200 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, PRN, SiriusXM). "It's definitely been tough," Hayley said. "This race is going to be my fifth new track again this year, so adjusting to all the different tracks and having all the tracks being new has definitely been difficult, but ThorSport has given me great trucks week in and week out and, like you said, we've been consistently getting better every single race. And we've had great trucks and had some bad luck, and I think Charlotte is going to be another one where I have lots to learn, but I think we have a great truck here and can do well." The learning curve may have been accelerated by having teammates in Crafton, the two-time defending series champion, and fellow veteran Sauter -- who have a combined 498 truck series starts to their credit. Hayley has 491 starts to catch the two; in the meantime, he's tapping them as a resource for as much advice as he can digest. "Both of them have been a tremendous help for me already," Hayley said. "Like I said, all these tracks have been new to me, so I can study race tapes, videos all I want, but until to you talk to a driver you don't really know a firsthand account of what's happening. Both these guys have helped me a lot. I haven't been quite quick enough to run up beside them during races yet, but I think we're getting there and I think I can learn a lot from that as well." Even though Hayley is still new to the team, Sauter said he likes what he's seen so far in the teenager's composure. "I don't really know him, he's a rookie, new to the deal -- but I think he's got a pretty good head on his shoulders," Sauter said. "I see him doing things that maybe necessarily don't see from a lot of rookie drivers and I think he's taking care of his equipment and showing speed at the same time. I think he’s been top of the board at Atlanta and Kansas, so there's speed there and he's only going to get better, so I think he's doing a great job and I see some things in him that I typically don't see in a lot of young guys at his age and at his experience level." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR executive weighs in on busy racing weekend NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that competition officials were working to increase side- by -side racing and passing near the front of the pack after a NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race that heavily favored leading cars. O'Donnell said that the process goes on every day at the sanctioning body's Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina , as NASCAR moves closer to making a final decision on the rules package for its premier Sprint Cup Series in 2016. "We actually do that every day," O'Donnell said. "We're focused on the racing, so when you look at particularly that race, we look at that as one of all of our events. We're a third of the way through the season. Lot of really great dialogue going on with the drivers, with the owners, with the race tracks, looking at how does the racing compare really over the last three to five years what, if any, of the levers can we look at as we look to the '16 package. So those discussions take place every day and we'll continue to do that today and heading into the season. "But still a third of the way through, too early to make an overall decision but certainly a lot of dialogue going on." Saturday night, Denny Hamlin claimed the $1 million All-Star prize after his Joe Gibbs Racing crew won the race off pit road before the final 10-lap segment. Once out in clean, non-turbulent air, Hamlin set sail to lead the rest of the way, taking the checkered flag by .923 seconds at Charlotte Motor Speedway . RELATED: Hamlin holds off Harvick to win Sprint All-Star Race The outcome was different than that of Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the intermediate-sized track. Eventual winner Kasey Kahne edged rookie Erik Jones in a captivating green-white-checkered finish after the two drivers raced side- by -side for virtually the entire two-lap shootout. O'Donnell said it was difficult to compare the two divisions, but he liked what he saw. "I think the ability to maintain that side- by -side racing is what we want to see," O'Donnell said. "There's a lot of variables with trucks, with aero, the distance of the races, who's in the field, that sort of thing. But certainly thought it was a tremendous race Friday night and of course, ultimately we'd like to see that throughout all of our divisions each and every race." This weekend's racing for all three national series brought some official rulings, both post-race and mid-race. In the truck series' event, Kahne's winning JR Motorsports No. 00 Chevrolet was deemed too low on both sides in the front and too high on one side in the rear after a post-race inspection. RELATED: Kahne wins Truck Series race, but fails post-race inspection Kahne started at the rear of the field after the team made an unapproved shock change before the race. Competition officials are expected to rule on the issue Tuesday, but O'Donnell said all factors will be considered before the final decision. "Every car or truck will have to pass pre-race inspection, so that's something that there's a balance there at the end of the race to make sure certain components aren't being manipulated, and that's our job to look at , but there's also cases where some pieces legitimately break," O'Donnell said. "These vehicles are out there running high 190s to 200 miles per hour, lots of contact especially when you talk truck racing. That's something that we take into consideration when we're evaluating all the vehicles post-race." Also in Saturday night's All-Star Race, a NASCAR spokesperson said that a crew member for the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team of driver Jimmie Johnson was under review for potentially altering a body panel late in the 110-lap invitational event. The practice of teams flaring out the side skirts ahead of the rear wheels was outlawed in the offseason. RELATED: Possible infraction for 48 team O'Donnell said that even though the event did not pay championship points, the high stakes would be reflected in how the NASCAR Rule Book is upheld for All-Star violations. "Still evaluating that like we do and if we make a decision to react, that would be on Tuesday, but there's a lot on the line for the All-Star Race," O'Donnell said. "It's not a points race, but certainly we know how much it means to win that race, so hopefully we don't have to make a call on this, but we would maintain the rule book throughout the race." Sunday in the NASCAR XFINITY Series 3M 250 , driver Brendan Poole was parked by NASCAR officials after retaliating in reaction to early race contact with J.J. Yeley at Iowa Speedway . O'Donnell said the immediate decision of race officials was necessary. "In this case when something happens on track, it's our policy to warn both drivers that we're going to be specifically looking at contact between those two," O'Donnell said. "In this case, we saw something that we believed was a move to really take someone out and we had to react. Not something we like doing, but we've got to react in that case and we did in Iowa." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
The classic NASCAR film "Days of Thunder" was loosely based on the career of 13-time premier series victor Tim Richmond, who had earned the nickname "Hollywood." Given his comfort in the spotlight over the course of the past two decades, perhaps the nickname would also suit Jeff Gordon , who retired from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after falling just short in his bid for a historic fifth title on Sunday. Born a California boy, it was clear from the start of his career that Gordon was cut from a different cloth than the good ol' boys who had ruled NASCAR throughout its storied history. He was polished. He was refined. He was -- eventually, once mustache met razor -- well-groomed. And people took notice. Before long there were endorsements, seemingly more Gordon memorabilia lining the shelves than shelves themselves and, oh yeah, four titles in his first nine seasons, solidifying a Hall of Fame resume before he even hit age 30. And Gordon's influence on the actual racing part of the sport will be everlasting. Take a look at the final Sprint Cup standings . There are only two drivers in the top 25 who originally hail from North Carolina ( Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Austin Dillon ), NASCAR's original talent pool hot bed. Many factors led to this, but Gordon's All-American appeal, charm and charisma helped pave the way -- even while playing the foil to Dale Earnhardt -- opening up NASCAR to a mainstream audience, flooding stands and couches in front of non-flat-screened TV sets with an audience that stretched from coast to coast, border to border. An audience that tuned in to see Gordon become the first -- and to date, only -- race car driver host one of America's most notable television programs, NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Jeff Gordon 's monologue from a 2003 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." "I asked (Gordon) recently, a while back, about what made you go on 'Saturday Night Live,' what made you want to do that," NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Number 1, he said, 'Well, they asked me.' And I said, 'Well, OK.' But he said, 'Look, I felt comfortable doing a lot of things that were not mainstream for a NASCAR driver.' "And he was smart about it. He knew that that could separate him from other drivers and he was good at it." Gordon's SNL appearance on Jan. 11, 2003, was a tipping point of bringing NASCAR to the masses, an unquestionable testament to the Hendrick Motorsports driver's popularity and wide-ranging allure. Gordon got to "beat up" a fake Gary Busey while hosting "SNL." It's the crowning achievement in Gordon's on-screen roles, a list that includes 27 appearances on "Live!" (with Regis/Kathie Lee/Kelly/Michael), including 11 guest hosting gigs. He's also appeared in "Spin City", "Arli$$", "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", " The Drew Carey Show", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", "Taxi", "Herbie Fully Loaded", "Sesame Street", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", "Top Gear", " The Simpsons", "Jeopardy" and even "Cars 2" -- as the appropriately named character "Jeff Gorvette." That curriculum vitae alone -- which is pared down; check out his entire IMDb page -- shows Gordon's star power across generations of fans and television watchers. Gordon also got to play a fighter pilot. Ultimately, with Gordon walking away on such a high note from the sport he's gotten so much out of, NASCAR has reaped the benefits of his contributions. Millions of NASCAR fans can thank Jeff Gordon for opening their eyes to the sport. "He's one of those guys, I always look back at drivers that take out a lot less than they put in," France said. "He's one of those guys that has put in a lot to grow the sport. And other drivers should think about that a little bit. Because he's really a model in that respect. "I have a lot of respect for Jeff Gordon ."
Miss Sprint Cup Madison Martin wants you to vote for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide.
RELATED: Practice results Daniel Hemric (No. 14 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet) topped the lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice session at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The rookie paced the 145-minute session with a fast lap of 168.908 mph. Tyler Reddick (No. 19 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford) came in second with a speed of 168.824 mph. Reddick enters the final race of the season 19 points back of Erik Jones (No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota) for the championship lead. Jones placed fifth in the session (167.447 mph). Spencer Gallagher (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet) was third (168.418 mph) and Crafton (167.452 mph) came in fourth. Jones had the fastest 10-lap average speed among seven drivers at 161.716 mph from Laps 11-20; Crafton was second at 160.629 mph, followed by Christopher Bell (159.862 mph), Hemric (159.644 mph) and Daniel Suarez (158.886 mph). Jones will lock up the title with a finish of 15th or better in Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM); 16th with at least one lap led; or 17th with the most laps led. Jones or Reddick would become the youngest driver to win the Camping World Truck Series championship, while also dethroning two-time defending champion Matt Crafton (No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota) in the process. Austin Theriault (No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford), who is set to make his first start since a major crash last month at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , finished the session 11th. Earlier in the week, Theriault was medically cleared to return to racing after suffering a 10 percent compression fracture of the lower back on Oct. 3 during the Rhino Linings 350 . Keystone Light Pole Qualifying is set for 4:10 p.m. ET (FS1).
RELATED: Race results " Series standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- As strong as he was in winning Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 , Matt Crafton was already looking ahead to 2016. Crafton, whose hopes for a third consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship were dashed by a crash at Phoenix last week, won his sixth race of the season, holding off John Hunter Nemechek and Tyler Reddick in the season finale. Although Crafton's No. 88 Toyota Tundra finished 2.9 seconds ahead of Nemechek and more than six seconds ahead of Reddick, the 39-year-old veteran still wound up third in the point standings, 15 behind 19-year-old Erik Jones . "I was having so much fun there at the end of this race," said Crafton after his first career victory at HMS. "Six wins with as many laps as we’ve led -- it's been awesome this season. We just made too many mistakes. I made too many mistakes. … I promise one thing: It's going to make us stronger in 2016." Crafton said he was happy to be able to "take the gloves off" and go all out for a win at HMS. "That was lot of fun," he said. "It's amazing what Junior (crew chief Joiner) can do with these trucks. On that last run, we hit a home run there." Ultimately, Kyle Busch 's eye for youthful talent paid off as Jones did what he needed to in becoming the youngest driver ever to claim a NCWTS title (19 years, 5 months, 21 days) and first NASCAR Next alum. He also became the first to win a driver's title for Kyle Busch Motorsports. "He put it to me when he beat me in a Super Late Model race," recalled Busch, who will race for the Sprint Cup title on Sunday. "I tend to pick up on the talent of younger kids. Actually, the first time he raced against me, he blew my doors off, then blew up 40 laps later. I said, 'Good. I don’t have to race (against) this one.' " There was no blowing up Friday night. Jones entered the race 19 points ahead of Reddick, his nearest competitor, and 32 points ahead of Crafton, the Keystone Light Pole-sitter. Making his first HMS start, Jones needed only to avoid trouble and finish 15th or higher to claim the series crown. Jones, who notched three wins this season and has seven career NCWTS victories, finished sixth in the race behind Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters . He qualified fifth and was content to race safely and efficiently, remaining in the top 10 for most of the race and avoiding any calamity on the track. "I can't think of a better way to repay these guys. I can't think of a better ending than that," said Jones, who expects to drive full-time in the XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing next year after parts of three seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports. "Eric's done a lot of growing up in a short period of time," Busch said. "I'm glad he stuck with me and our plan. I think he has a lot of bigger and greater things ahead on his plate." NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next alum Daniel Suarez appeared to have the strongest truck early in Friday's race, charging from sixth to the lead. But Suarez slid up the track into the truck of Dexter Stacey on Lap 61, falling back to 15th, then found the wall again on Lap 83. That left Crafton in position to dominate the race. He led 93 of the 134 laps, leaving NASCAR Next driver Nemechek (Chevrolet) and Reddick (Ford) in his wake to battle for second. Reddick, driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, started fourth and advanced to second behind Crafton with 40 laps to go. But by then, Jones, who briefly slid back to 14th after a caution flag shuffle, had rallied to seventh, keeping Reddick, also a 19-year-old driver, at bay in the chase for the title. "We were very consistent this year. I'm proud about that," Reddick said. "We just have to move on to next year. I know what second place feels like and I really don't like it too much. If I didn't have enough reasons to win a championship, I've got one more."
Check out the post-race reactions from Matt Crafton and Brad Keselowski at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
RELATED: Complete Miami race results " Final 2015 standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kyle Larson took out a season of frustration on the NASCAR XFINITY Series field Saturday in the season finale, tracking down Austin Dillon in the closing laps to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway by slightly less than a second. Despite Larson's dominance in leading 118 of 200 laps, Chris Buescher ran a clean race, finishing 11th to clinch his first XFINITY Series title. Buescher came into the race needing to finish 13th or better to guarantee himself the championship. After winning a pair of XFINITY Series races last season, Larson, 23, had visions of qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year. Those hopes failed to materialize. He sits 20th in Sprint Cup points heading into Sunday's season finale (3 p.m. ET on NBC). And prior to Saturday, although managing three top-five finishes, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity alum had gone winless in 13 XFINITY starts. But Larson's No. 42 Chevrolet out of the Harry Scott Jr. shop was so strong on Saturday that by Lap 97, only three other cars were chasing him on the lead lap. Larson had opened a 6.7-second lead over early-race leader Kyle Busch (who led 62 of the first 79 laps from the Coors Light Pole) when the race's third caution flag waved on Lap 117. Busch's threat fizzled when he was penalized for having a loose tire in the pits, then crashed after contact with NASCAR Drive for Diversity alum Darrell Wallace Jr . on Lap 182. On the final restart, however, Larson slipped to fourth and had to recover with a late race charge to catch Dillon. Both Larson and Dillon, seeking the speed of the outside line at Homestead-Miami Speedway , brushed the wall in the final laps. "To win is really special, especially when you haven't won in over a year in a NASCAR national series," said Larson, admitting he wasn't sure he could catch Dillon, who led laps 180-195. "There's no other track that suits me like this track. I'm just really comfortable running up against the wall. I seem to always have good race cars when I come here. "We've been frustrated a number of times this year. Some races, we haven't had the speed we had last year. Also, we've had a lot of races where we were pretty fast, then had something happen to us in the last run of the races. It's just been a really inconsistent year." When it came time to celebrate, however, Larson drove directly to Victory Lane, respectfully leaving the burnout to the XFINITY Series champ. "This is championship week, so congratulations to Chris Buescher ," Larson said. "I wanted Chris to have his moment there." Buescher, who won races at Iowa and Dover this season, came into the race with a string of nine consecutive top-10 finishes, but played it safe throughout the day at HMS. Crew chief Scott Graves did make a pivotal call, electing to pit while other title contenders remained on the track for the final 21 laps. That put Buescher in position to claim the free pass, which he did moments later when Busch hit the wall. "We thought having fresh tires on it was going to put us in a better position," Graves said. "We knew if we could be in the 'Lucky Dog' situation … we were basically going to be on even ground (with our competitors). With the number of laps that was left, we felt that was going to be our best option." "Our Fastenal Mustang had good speed in it, but we just had to be careful out there," Buescher said. "It's unbelievable for us to be able to pull it off. I’m not a 'points' racer. I don't like it. But it was important (to finish) what we've been fighting for since February and Daytona." Chase Elliott , the defending series champion who is poised to take over the No. 24 Sprint Cup car for Hendrick Motorsports in 2016, finished eighth in the race and 15 points behind Buescher. Ty Dillon , seventh on Saturday, finished 18 points behind Buescher, and Regan Smith , ninth on Saturday, settled for fourth in points, 22 points back. "We had an up-and-down season," said Elliott, who won three XFINITY Series races in 2014 but lamented his ability to win just once this year ( at Richmond). "They just outran us, fair and square. No reason to be upset about that. We just need to do a better job." Dillon recorded his 25th top-10 finish of the season but failed to win a race. He did finish in the top 10 in eight of his last nine races. Smith, runner-up to Elliott last season, ended the season with 13 consecutive top-10 finishes. While Buescher gave Roush Fenway Racing Owner Jack Roush his fifth XFINITY Series title, the owner's championship went to Team Penske 's No. 22 Ford for a third consecutive season. Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Alex Tagliani and Ryan Blaney -- who finished fifth behind Erik Jones (Toyota) and Brian Scott (Chevrolet) in the Ford EcoBoost 300 -- all made starts in the No. 22 this season.
Charlotte marks the fourth stop for the Truck Series in 2014