Dane Cameron Interview: 3x IMSA Champ Talks Karting
Dane Cameron, 3x IMSA Champion
If you don’t know who Dane Cameron is, you’re probably not watching the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, for he has certainly made a name for himself in the series.
In the six seasons he’s raced in IMSA, Dane has won three championships. His first title came in 2014 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class racing a BMW Z4 GT3 for the esteemed Turner Motorsport . In 2016, Dane won his second title – this time in the Prototype (P) class with Action Express Racing’s Coyote Corvette DP. And just last year in 2019, Dane won his third IMSA title in the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class driving Team Penske’s #6 Acura ARX-05 with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya.
In addition to the three titles, he has five GTD class wins, 8 overall victories and 35 podiums at the time of this writing.
We got to speak with the Californian last year during his championship season. We discussed his early karting days, and he even offers some advice to young kids who have experienced K1 Speed and want to be a race driver when they grow up. Here’s what he had to say.
Interview with Dane Cameron
K1 Speed: Do you remember the first time you went go karting as a kid?
Dane Cameron: Yeah, I’m trying to remember which one was the chicken and which one was the egg. I have a few memories from the very first couple of times.
I grew up in Sonoma and my uncles had race shops. I’d go out to Sears Point, Infineon, – whatever you want to call it depending on the year you’re talking about (currently Sonoma Raceway). Remember driving (a kart) in the parking lot where now the SimRaceway School is, and all through the paddock there one day really, really early on. I remember that being really fun.
I remember going to the Prairie City track in Sacramento, actually kind of where Joey (Hand) is – one of the first tracks I went to if I remember right. And then first race I ever did was again in Northern California at Kinsman Kart Club or “Dixon” out there – really short little bullring up there. That was the first actual racing, club racing, that I did was there. So I remember that.
For me, it was always my favorite thing that I wanted to do more than anything else. My dad worked in racing, so he was super busy. But when he was around, it was like, ok, we can go to the movies, you can go to your friend’s house, or we can go to the go kart track. And I was like, “forget all that other stuff! Let’s go to the go kart track! I wanna go drive!” That was always at the forefront of everything I wanted to do, so it definitely steered my life for sure for a long time.
K1: Now, you talk about the fact that you loved it so much. But were you good at it initially? Were you a natural or did it take a little more time?
DC: Yeah, it definitely took a little bit of time. I was okay (laughs). But I think I remember I won like one race the first year – kind of thing. Most of the time we were 3rd or whatever type of deal. I was kinda okay but I was super fortunate that my dad and uncle had this Lynx Team that ran in Formula Atlantic which was obviously a really big team in that time period. So we had a ton of really good guys that were floating around like Memo Gidley, Alex Barron, Michael Valiante, that were a really huge influence for me during that time period.
In the early days I used to get some help from Memo and Alex . Then it was in the early 2000s that Michael was there and I was really starting to do some more go karting, and he and I would run a lot. Probably, at some stages, it was probably 3 or 4 days a week we’d run at Sears Point at the kart track there. Just hammer on each other and all kinds of stuff – 80(cc) shifters and then 125(cc) shifters later. I think that really helped get me to the next level – for sure in go karting – and also I think laid a really good foundation for my auto racing career.
K1: Yeah, so with that in mind, what skills do you think have carried over from your karting days to your auto racing today?
DC: Yeah, there’s a lot that you learn. Obviously, you learn your basic stuff for driving and that type of thing. Karting in the now ends up being just something I do here and there just when I have breaks when out of the car. But really racecraft is for sure once of the best things you can get out of it, cos certain types of racecars don’t really race that well, are so aero-dependent, and you really don’t make that many passes a lot of times. So you can really get a great sense of how to race guys, how to position your car or kart, can really be developed in karting there. So for sure, that kind of intensity and that kind of racecraft I felt really helped a lot there in karting.
A lot of it applies – getting up to speed quickly, that type of thing, cold tire performance, wet, all this.. You learn so many skills that you really kind of carry for forever. Kinda builds your confidence as you go to cars as well.
So yeah, I’ve always loved karting, and have tried to always have a kart floating around in the house so I can go and do a little bit of driving here and there when I want to. I haven’t raced a kart in years and years but it’s always remained a really big passion and a really fun thing for me to always have a kart around.
K1: Now, say a kid goes into K1 Speed , falls in love with it like you did and starts thinking “maybe I want to be a racecar driver” like you. What advice would you give them?
DC: Oh man, yeah (laughs). The problem with racing is there’s really no clear way, no clear path. But for sure these days you see a lot of people that are in a really big rush. There’s kind of the Verstappen thing where everybody thinks they need to be in Formula 1 by the age of 16 or whatever, you know. And some people are kind of supernaturally talented like that, and get all the right opportunities, they get there, and they’re ready for it.
And probably for most of us, I think it’s really important to take your time a little bit and build your craft, and make sure you’re winning at a level before you go to the next level, you know have some success there because it’s going to get harder and harder as you go up. So take your time, really learn your skills, try not to jump too many rungs on the totem pole if you can help it and that type of thing. Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of work, but if that’s the type of thing you really wanna do, then it’ll be worth it for sure.
Dane Cameron Narrates a Lap of Long Beach
Dane Cameron was interviewed during Media Week for the 2019 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. He went on to finish third in that weekend’s IMSA race. Take a ride with Dane in an Acura NSX pace car around the Streets of Long Beach circuit in the video above!
Try Go Kart Racing Yourself!
We now know how crucial go karting was to Dane Cameron’s success as a racing driver. So why not try your hand at the sport? Come to K1 Speed and enjoy the very best indoor electric go kart racing you can find. Click the button below to learn more about racing at K1 Speed.